Conduct a self-audit before finalizing terminations.

There's a compelling reason to conduct a routine HR office review of all employment decisions before they're finalized. That way, your HR professionals can do their jobs and confirm that the decision is based on objective information and business necessity. Plus, HR can run an internal self-audit to catch any hidden or unintentional discrimination before giving the final go-ahead to a discharge or demotion.

Recent case: Jen, a gay woman, worked as the women's head softball coach and part-time director of operations for the women's hockey team at the University of Minnesota. In the 2014-2015 season, the hockey team staff included head coach Shannon, Jen's live-in romantic partner, two assistant coaches and three other women holding other roles. All seven employees identify as gay women.

The following season, the university's head coach wanted to fire Shannon and several other staff members. He consulted with the HR department first, which reviewed the request and ultimately agreed with the coaching director that the university would fire or not renew the contracts of six female, gay coaching employees. Based on a longstanding university policy that each sport's head coach should be free to select his or her team, HR agreed that it is appropriate to "clean house" when the head coach leaves or is terminated.

Jen was offered a contract to stay as head softball coach but would not retain her director of operations position. She quit instead and sued, alleging sexual orientation discrimination.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that even though all the...

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