Most of the time, when an employer terminates an employee, and that employee sues, a court will not let an employer introduce evidence uncovered after the decision to terminate. However an exception has been added due to a recent decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals where it was held that evidence that is uncovered after termination may be used to show that an employer had a non-discriminatory basis for the discharge.
In Weber v. Fujifilm Medical Systems USA Inc., 13-4891-cv(L); 14-206-cv (XAP) (2d. Cir. 2014) the Plaintiff claimed he was fired based on his race and national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and also brought suit alleging breach of contract and tortious interference with a contract. Over the objections of the Plaintiff, the Defendants were permitted to use evidence uncovered after the termination that the Plaintiff had engaged in misconduct and other irregularities during his tenure. The District Court allowed the evidence for the limited purpose of showing a non-discriminatory basis for the termination and as a defense to the Plaintiff’s claim of breach of contract. The jury found the Defendants not liable for discrimination (but liable for breach of contract and tortious interference) and awarded damages totaling over $500,000; far less than he would have been entitled to if the Plaintiff prevailed on the Title VII claims.
In its decision, the Second Circuit found that even though the defendant learned of the evidence only after the Plaintiff was terminated, “Defendants were…not estopped from arguing that the after-acquired evidence of Weber’s role in the [financial] arrangement confirmed their suspicions that he mismanaged [Defendants’] finances.”
While this decision helps employers in defending against discrimination claims where actual evidence of malfeasance is uncovered after termination, care must be taken anytime the decision to terminate is made. Properly training managers or supervisors helps mitigate the potential for lawsuits. Contact any of our experienced labor attorneys for training or if you have a discrimination case pending.