HR Professionals are often called upon to make difficult decisions that are legally compliant. Occasionally, however, personnel decisions lead to charges and lawsuits that may go to trial, where a jury will scrutinize those decisions.
On September 13, 2019, Foulston’s Employment Law Team presented a mock trial of an age discrimination lawsuit to a packed room at the Kansas Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) State Conference in Overland Park.
During the first hour, attorneys for the employer and former employee presented their cases as they would in a real trial – but in a much-abbreviated fashion – including opening statements, direct and cross-examination of witnesses, and closing arguments.
In the second hour, audience members were divided into 10-member juries. The juries received instructions from the judge, selected a foreperson, and deliberated until they reached a verdict.
In case you’re wondering, 30% of the juries found for the employee, and 70% for the employer. The fact that so many juries, all consisting of HR professionals, reached different results underscores how difficult it is to predict how a particular jury might see things. And why it’s important to make and implement HR decisions in a way to lessen the possibility that they will be second-guessed by a jury.
Participants reported that the mock trial provided a good reminder about the need for ongoing management training (especially for new managers), the importance of keeping personnel policies updated, and the value of professional development for human resources managers.