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Q. Is there anything I should look out for in documenting my legitimate business reason for terminating an employee?
A. The United States Appeals Court for the Seventh Circuit (covering Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) recently issued an opinion that serves as a warning that inconsistent explanations of an employer’s reason for an adverse employment decision could support an inference of retaliation. In Donley v. Stryker Sales Corp., No. 17-1195 (7th Cir. Oct. 15, 2018), the plaintiff filed an internal complaint with the company’s human resources department that a manager was harassing a female coworker. The human resources director investigated the complaint and the company then terminated the manager, albeit with a hefty severance package. Shortly after the termination, however, the plaintiff also was terminated. The company claims that it fired the plaintiff for taking improper photographs of the CEO of a vendor, who was drunk at a work event approximately six weeks prior to plaintiff’s harassment complaint.
This is where the story shifts.