Severe settlement conditions for supervisor. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently settled a religion, race and national-origin case, EEOC v. Pace Services LP, which alleged that the supervisor of a Muslim employee of East Indian origin repeatedly called him "terrorist," "Osama" and "al-Qaeda." The supervisor also used—and allowed other workers to use—racial epithets toward several Black and Latino employees. The plaintiff complained to no avail and then was fired after he complained. The settlement provides $123,000 to the 14 employees who were impacted. It also stipulates that the supervisor will be barred from employment by the Houston-area construction company and will never receive a positive reference for other jobs. In addition, the EEOC will monitor the company for two years (S.D. Texas, 2010). Read Muslims & Stereotypes: Do They Really Hate Us?
Corporate executive sacked for misuse of company credit cards, not age. An insurance-company vice president, who was older than 50, gave company-expensed credit cards to his wife and mistress, both of whom used them to make personal purchases. The company discovered this, demanded $15,000 repayment for unauthorized personal use and then fired the executive. The vice president's replacement was 28 years old. In McLain v. Liberty National Ins. (11th Cir., 2010), the fired vice president sued for age discrimination. But the court dismissed the case, finding that his credit-card misuse was a valid reason for the discharge.
Read more about corporate accountability, leadership and values among the nation's most progressive companies. Go to www.BestPractices.DiversityInc.com.
Refusal to participate in discrimination investigation nixes case. An employee filed several internal organizational complaints of age discrimination. Subsequently, he was believed to have violated a security rule, spending excessive unexplained time in the computer room. He also repeatedly refused to attend meetings or answer questions in the investigation of the matter, and then he was fired. In Wood v. Summit County Fiscal Office (6th Cir., 2010), the plaintiff sued for age discrimination and retaliation. The court found that his refusal to participate in the investigation was insubordination and a valid reason for discharge. Whether or not the security charges were motivated by retaliation for his earlier age-discrimination complaints, he had a duty to follow the employer's investigation policy. Bottom line: A plaintiff can challenge unfair discipline or discharge but must usually follow the process through to the end in order to preserve the right to sue.
Bob Gregg, partner in Boardman Law Firm, shares his roundup of diversity-related legal issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.