Even-handed policies helped beat this racial discrimination case

by on January 2, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Clear policies and consistent documentation let firm win racial discrimination lawsuit

You may legally fire a protected worker if you have a legitimate business reason. And if you have such a reason, you need not handle the protected employee with kid gloves.

Fred Jackson, an African-American machinist, had the worst performance record on the shop floor.

During a period when Jackson made nine sheet metal cuts, his coworkers averaged two.

Fired for poor performance

He was verbally warned, formally counseled, suspended and ultimately fired.

Jackson filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in which he claimed that the factory bosses held him to a higher standard than his white colleagues.

He argued that white employees were supervised less closely than blacks, which allowed them to get away with more mistakes.

And he said the whites were disciplined more leniently for their errors.

Claimed disparate treatment

In court, Jackson claimed disparate treatment, but he couldn’t prove overall workplace racial discrimination.

Instead, he relied on his own testimony and the generalized opinions of a few coworkers who believed that Jackson’s treatment was rooted in race.

On the other hand, the employer showed productivity records proving Jackson’s sub-par performance and showing similar treatment for low-performing non-African-Americans.

The documentation painted a clear picture of the company’s even policy application.

Cite: Jackson v. Rheum Mfg., U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, 03-2352, 3/9/04.

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