White suspended-minority fired: Was it racial discrimination in the workplace

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

Judge said no, but only because the company had good documentation

You can’t legally fire a minority employee for the exact same infraction that would only get a white employee suspended. Right?

Wrong. Here’s a recent case that shows the distinction between racial discrimination in the workplace and good management techniques.

Left early without permission

An African-American worker was dismissed from his job because he left the plant early without obtaining permission from his supervisor.

The worker sued for racial discrimination in the workplace, claiming that a white worker who also left his shift without permission was suspended for two months, but he wasn’t fired.

However, a review of each worker’s disciplinary record showed that the African-American – unlike the white employee – had a long history of arriving late, leaving early, poor workmanship and unacceptable behavior. In fact, his attendance record was worse than anyone else’s in the plant.

The employer produced plenty of written warnings the plaintiff had previously received for leaving early without permission. These documents made the employer’s case.

On the surface it looked like racism in the workplace, but thorough documentation helped the employer prevail.

Cite: Forrest v. Kraft Foods, Inc., U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, No. 01-2854, 4/3/02.

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