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TexLaw, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 4430
Experience:  Contracts, Wrongful termination and discrimination
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After 16 years of employment withthis company, the last 10

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After 16 years of employment withthis company, the last 10 years in a management position, I was abruptly terminated. The stated reason was our sales department has been in decline for the last 2-3 years. Also, during this time, a new manager was brought in to help spur production. During his time at the company, my pay was reduced in order to pay him more, not once, but twice. I am black and he is not! I have never received a reprimand or any other documentation relating to poor performance or anything else.

I was offered a $10,000 severance package, which I have 7 days to decide if I want to take it. Although the money is a decent gesture, it pales in comparison to the $40,000,000.00 I helped this company earn over the last 10 years.

What are my options? If any!

Thank you for your question. I'm very sorry to hear about this situation.

I think the best thing here is to start with an explanation of the law in this area and then discuss your case in particular. In Indiana, and throughout the United States, employment law heavily favors the employer in most situations. Unless the employee has a contract which provides that the employee may only be terminated for cause, the law will hold that the employee's right to work falls under the At Will Doctrine. The At Will Doctrine provides that an employer may terminate an employee for any reason whatsoever, even if it is a false reason. The only limitation on this is that an employer may not terminate an employee because of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry of the employee.

In your case, you say you were terminated for no reason other than a claimed decline in revenue in your department (although it appears that a manager is reallocating funds to pay himself rather than you). By the statements in your question, I assume that you do not have a written contract which provides you may only be terminated for cause. Given that unless you have a written contract providing otherwise the employer has a right to terminate you for any reason that the employer believes is fit, do you believe that the termination was actually based on discrimination regarding your race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I do not want to believe that race is/was a factor, however, being that there were only 2 black managers, and we were the only ones to receive pay cuts, and I was terminated, it does make me wonder.

That sounds suspicious to me as well.

The real issue then is to weigh the likely benefits of pressing a race claim through the EEOC. What the gist of your claim would be is that the company's policy's have a disparate impact on its black employees. These type of claims are hard to establish, when the impact is not widespread. I'm not saying its impossible, but it is not the strongest case. Even if you did uncover more evidence of racism within the company, you would have to go through the lengthy process of an EEOC claim and investigation (which can take 9 months or longer) before you are issued a "Right to Sue" letter. Once you have that letter, you may file a lawsuit in state or federal court to seek damages and penalties.

Of course, the lawsuit assumes that you will be able to convince a jury that the motivating factor was race. You would carry the burden of proof on this issue. Without more evidence than the disparate impact on you and the other black manager, the case is going to be difficult (again not impossible, but difficult).

They have put you under the gun to decide whether to sign the release and accept the severance, which is also suspicious to me.

So, in conclusion, you do have a potential claim based on the fact that only you and the other black manager were affected by the company's moves, with no other explanation as to why only you two were singled out. The company's actions thus had a disparate impact, if they were not outright based simply on race.

If you want to file a claim and waive the severance, the process could take a long time and there is not an assured winnable case here without more evidence of racism. To file, you would contact the local EEOC, which you can locate at . They will instruct you further on the local procedures for filing a claim.

Please let me know if you have any further questions. Please also kindly consider rating my answer positively so that I am compensated by the website for my work on your question. Rating positively does not cause an additional charge and does not prevent us from further discussing your questions.

Best Regards,
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