Supervisor’s take-home: It’s never a good idea to fire a worker without first warning him or her about performance problems, especially if the person is a member of a so-called protected class.
What happened: A Black man was living with a white woman who has a white son from a previous marriage. However, the Black man helped raise the child and considered him his stepson; the boy considered the Black man to be his stepfather.
What people did: The Black man had been working in a job for about six months when his stepson showed up at the workplace to visit him. The boy approached the worker’s supervisor and told him he was looking for his stepfather. The manager said the boy couldn’t possibly be looking for a Black man. Previously, the white boss had expressed to the Black worker his disapproval of interracial relationships. In fact, it was well known among the workforce that the boss didn’t like the idea of Black folks and white folks being involved in relationships.
About 15 minutes after the stepson arrived at the work site, his stepfather was terminated. No reason was given for his dismissal.
Legal challenge: The Black worker sued for race bias, saying he was let go because his boss didn’t approve of interracial relationships.
Result: The company lost. The court refused to dismiss the lawsuit. The judge said the supervisor’s stated opposition to interracial relationships might have played a role in the decision to terminate the Black man.
In addition, the court noted that the Black worker wasn’t given an explanation for his termination.
The skinny: Keep in mind that laws forbidding race discrimination also extend protections to employees associated with someone of a different race.
Cite: Nesbit v. Mississippi Department of Transportation, U.S. District Court, N.D. Mississippi, No. 3:21-cv-0003-MPM-JMV, 5/2/22.
(From the May 27, 2022, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)