Is a note on a personnel file evidence of ethnic discrimination at work?

by on January 5, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Documentation saved the day in an ethnic discrimination lawsuit

An employee’s request for Friday afternoons (the Muslim day of rest) off didn’t protect him in court – even though his boss griped “First week on job requested Fridays off” in his personnel file.

Facts of the case

After a Kuwaiti-born IS manager was fired for poor performance, he came back and sued his employer for religious and ethnic discrimination.

The real reason for his dismissal, he claimed, was bias against him on account of his request for a religious accommodation. In court, the fired employee pointed out a number of derogatory remarks made about him by employees and managers. Most of these comments were about his personal habits, but he believed that their real issue was his national origin.

Plus, he asserted that the “first week on the job ….” comment demonstrated hostility on the part of his boss.

But the court found in favor of the employer. The company had given the man Friday afternoons off, and he had been able to make up the time without causing any hardship or interference.

After the court examined the employee’s record, it concluded that the termination had nothing to do with ethnic discrimination in the workplace or his request for Friday afternoons off. Rather, it had to do with his missed deadlines, shoddy work and lousy attitude – all of which the employer had documented.

And the supervisor’s note? It was dumb, but given the other evidence the court ruled it didn’t factor into the decision to dismiss the employee.

Cite: Hannoon v. Fawn Engineering Corp., U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, No. 02-2078, 4/14/03.

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