Perceived “Bad Business Decisions” Do Not Necessarily Demonstrate Discriminatory Practices

Businesses are not infrequently tasked with making decisions on promoting or demoting parts of their workforce. Some employees may become upset when they are passed over for promotions by other employees whom they perceive to be incompetent or unqualified. The Court in Payment v. DOT, 2017 Mich App LEXIS 1295, *9, ruled that these business decisions, bad or otherwise, cannot be viewed by the court as creating a question of fact regarding discriminatory practices.

In this case, Plaintiff had a history of depression and anxiety, which she believed offered her protection under the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act. She also believed that her protected status was violated when one of her colleagues was promoted over her, despite the fact that she admitted that they were “close” in skillsets. Here, the Court held that in the absence of any evidence which would prove discrimination, Plaintiff could not simply assert that discrimination occurred and hope that her non-promotion would create a question of fact.

The Court is not in the business of evaluating a business’ judgment and decisions, even if they are dubious, or the criterion for advancement is perceived to be nonsensical. It found that “poor business judgment” is insufficient to establish a wrongful motive,” especially when the persons in charge of the placement decisions do not factor disabilities or other protected activities when making their decision. In closing, “bad business decisions” do not necessarily create a material question of fact on their own, especially when no causal link between hiring decisions and protected status is shown.

This article was written by Nezar Habhab, Law Clerk.

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