Bloomberg Employee Claim Highlights Need for Candor

Earlier this week, Brian Martinez filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York, claiming that Bloomberg L.P. terminated his employment because he was regarded as disabled and because he is gay, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and employment discrimination laws of New York State and City. 

In a nutshell, Martinez was the victim of domestic abuse, which caused him to suffer a nervous breakdown.  He took two leaves of absence to address his psychological issues and, during the second, Bloomberg eliminated his job in a restructuring.   (Read the Bloomberg Complaint.pdf.)  In the Complaint, Martinez claims that the restructuring was a mere pretext, and that Bloomberg actually fired him because they continued to view him as psychologically disabled even though he was cleared to return to work, and because he is homosexual.

I don't know, or even have an opinion about, whether Bloomberg illegally discriminated against Brian Martinez.  A complaint only give you a piece of the story.  It is possible that Bloomberg has the leaves of absence and the restructuring papered to death and its defense tied up with a bow.  But I was struck by a few allegations in the Complaint that highlight a teachable moment for litigation avoidance in employment.  They are:

1.  Martinez had suffered from domestic abuse for several months before his first leave of absence began. 

2.  Martinez received a positive performance review about 2 weeks into his first leave, but his bonus was not consistent with what it should have been for his performance and his department. 

3.  Martinez asked several times for an explanation of the discrepancy in his bonus, but kept being put off. 

What's the lesson?  Being "nice" instead of candid will get you sued.

I'm not abusing punctuation; I put "nice" in quotations because you really are not being nice to anyone.  If someone isn't performing, you have to tell him even if it means hurt feelings.  Nobody wants to be the meanie, but sugar-coating performance issues is like social promotion in grade school.  Eventually, someone will figure out that Johnny can't read, and it does Johnny no good to be illiterate.  Don't be a jerk about it, but say what needs to be said and help the employee be successful.

My Jedi mind powers tell me that Martinez had a really bad year.  He was being abused at home and had a high-pressure job.  Something had to give, and it was probably his job performance.  But, if the Complaint is to be believed, you would not know that from his performance evaluation or the non-answers he received concerning his bonus.  

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