The scenario: A white female employee had been on the job for only one week when her black female manager directed ageist comments at her. The black boss told the white staffer that she was too old to fit in and that she was “over the hill.”
The white woman reported the discriminatory comments to her boss’s manager. However, the white woman was told to stop complaining about the black female manager because the company didn’t want to risk a race discrimination lawsuit.
When the black manager learned that the white woman had complained about her, she blew her stack. The supervisor told the woman that she’d “cut her own throat” by making claims against her. And she informed the woman that she was “f-ck-d,” that her days with the company were numbered, and that she “better watch it” because she and her boyfriend knew where she lived. The black manager also pounded the table and yelled, “I’m so pissed off at you. How dare you make complaints about me?”
A short time later, the black supervisor retired and was replaced by another black woman. The new supervisor quickly fired the white staffer for being disruptive. As she was escorting the white woman out of the building, the black boss told her that she was being let go because she’d complained about her previous black supervisor.
Legal challenge: The white woman sued for retaliation, saying she was fired for alleging bias. The company said she was let go because she wasn’t a team player.
The ruling: The employer lost. The court ruled that the boss’s remark that the woman was being fired for complaining may have indicated unlawful retaliation.
The skinny: Make sure all comments made to someone being escorted out of a building are consistent with previous justifications for a dismissal.
Cite: Monaghan v. Worldpay US, Inc., U.S. Court of Appeals 11, No. 17-14333, 4/2/20.
(From the May 15, 2020, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors. To download the rest of the issue, please click here.)