Ill effects remain from racial discrimination in the workplace

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

Firm hoped problem would go away with supervisor’s transfer

If you transfer a manager who’s been the subject of employee complaints, don’t think the risk of litigation will automatically go away – even if the replacement boss is a worker favorite.

Marcus Noble alleged his boss, Linda Lawrence, harassed him because he’s black. Noble claimed Lawrence gave him the least-desirable shifts and showed contempt toward him that she did not show toward white workers.

Noble complained about Lawrence and alleged racial discrimination in the workplace, but before HR could respond she was transferred to another company-owned facility. The reason for the transfer had nothing to do with Noble.

Noble got along well with his new supervisor. He said that “99.9% of the threats and harassment” had come from his old boss, not his new one.

Everything was fine until Noble missed a shift and failed to call in – an offense for which he got fired. He filed a racial discrimination lawsuit.

Mixed motive?
Normally an employee won’t win a case like this; missing work, after all, is a term-able offense. But the courts were influenced by two facts:

    1. HR hadn’t acted quickly enough to Noble’s racial discrimination complaint against Lawrence, who received no warning or other disciplinary action.
    2. Evidence showed that before leaving, Lawrence had warned her successor that Noble was a problem.

Those two factors combined to create the possibility of a mixed motive and showed racial discrimination in the workplace.

Cite: Noble v. Brinker Int’l, Inc., No. 02-4190, 6th Cir., 12/3/04.

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