When an employee of one race is treated differently that similarly situated employees of another race, the employee files a race discrimination complaint and is ultimately terminated, an employee has claims for both race discrimination and retaliation for engaging in protected activity. These claims are illustrated in a recent case, Childress v. Colvin, 2014 U. S. Dist. Lexis 25878 (E. D. Pa. February 28, 2014)(Jones, J.), where the Plaintiff employee was employed for 11 years by the Social Security Administration as a computer specialist and web developer and was the only African-American employee on her assigned team throughout her employment. Initially, the employee excelled and received a number of awards and was selected to participate in a regional management development program, a course developed to identify potential management candidates and develop employees for advancement. After the employee accepted the opportunity and participated in 14 months of training, she returned to her job and received a satisfactory job performance review, however, 6 weeks later she received a performance improvement plan without any notice or warning. The employee then complained to an Equal Employment Officer, participated in alternative dispute resolution, and then filed a formal complaint which was later settled. The employee’s supervisor then resigned and the employee alleged that the new supervisor began an intense campaign intending to evict the employee from her position by giving her difficult work assignments with arduous deadlines not given to Caucasian employees; and denying her the best and most visible work projects, instead giving the projects to Caucasian employees. The employee then filed another complaint but she continued to be treated poorly, receiving reprimands for minor issues, while Caucasian employees received no such treatment. The employee made several requests for a transfer, but her requests were denied without explanation, even though she was qualified for the open positions while Caucasian employees and those who had not filed complaints submitted similar requests were granted transfers during the same time period that the employee applied for open positions. The employee also alleged that she was denied core training, which was nonetheless offered to at least 6 Caucasian employees. In Childress, the employee was ultimately terminated and she filed claims for race discrimination, hostile work environment claim, and retaliation for engaging in protected activity.
To state a claim for racial discrimination under federal law, a plaintiff employee must establish that (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she was qualified for the position she held or sought; (3) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated employees who are not members of the protected class were treated more favorably, or that the circumstances of an employee’s termination give rise to an inference of discriminate Applying this standard in Childress, the Court found that the Plaintiff employee could proceed with her race discrimination claim because she made numerous allegations indicating that she was treated less favorably than similarly situated Caucasian employees during a 5 year period which raises a plausible inference of a pattern of discrimination spanning more than 5 years.
To properly plead a claim for hostile work environment based on race, a plaintiff employee must allege she suffered intentional discrimination because of her membership in a protected class; (2) the discrimination was pervasive and regular; (3) the discrimination detrimentally affected her; (4) the discrimination would have detrimentally affected a reasonable person in the same position; and (5) the existence of respondeat superior liability (the employer is responsible for the actions of the harasser). The conduct in question must be so severe or pervasive that it creates an objectively hostile work environment and to evaluate this factor courts must consider the totality of the circumstances and analyze the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance. In Childress, the Court found that a review of the complaint shows that the Plaintiff employee alleged that similarly situated Caucasian employees were given more favorable assignments, that her supervisor would gossip about plaintiff and deride her work product to other employees, that she was treated more harshly than Caucasian employees when she did not perform well or returned from a break late, that her superiors withheld work from her and instead gave the work to Caucasian employees, and that she was denied transfer requests that were granted to other employees, all of whom were Caucasian. As such, the Court found that the allegations hardly amount to isolated or single incidents of harassment, consequently, the conduct at issue was pervasive and regular harassment and would undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on a reasonable person.
In Childress, the Plaintiff also successfully stated a retaliation claim. Retaliation at the workplace is considered protected activity. It is unlawful for an employer to take action against an employee for or making charges, testifying, assisting, or participating in discrimination enforcement proceedings. When analyzing retaliation claims, the timing between the protected activity and the adverse employment action is important in order to determine if it is unusually suggestive of motive. In Childress, the plaintiff employee alleged that she complained to an Equal Employment Officer in August 2007, participated in alternative dispute resolution process in September 2007, filed a formal complaint on October 2007, and filed a formal EEO complaint in February 2011 and December 2012, which the court found to be undoubtedly protected activity because acceptable forms of protected activity include formal charges of discrimination as well as informal protests of discriminatory employment practices such as making complaints to management. The Court found that the timing between protected activity and these employees’ actions certainly raises a plausible inference of retaliation, culminating in the denial of the plaintiff employee’s transfer requests and ultimately the termination of employment.
For more information on race discrimination, retaliation and Abramson Employment Law, see http://www.job-discrimination.com/lawyer-attorney-1126519.html, on see http://www.job-discrimination.com/lawyer-attorney-1126498.html.