Overview: After he sought a promotion, an African American man was told, “Your Black ass doesn’t need a promotion.”
The scenario: When Tracy Gooch, a Black man employed by Nashville Electric Services (NES), Nashville, TN, first heard that he’d been passed over for a promotion in favor of a less- experienced, younger white man, he was disappointed but not surprised.
After all, during his 35 years at NES, Gooch had been subject to racist behavior many times. Not only was he often referred to as a n-gg-r, but he’d also heard offensive comments such as “Blacks need to stay in their place” and “We need to have slaves again to make America great again.” When Gooch first sought the promotion, someone even said to him, “Your Black ass doesn’t need a promotion.”
And the offensive behavior wasn’t limited to comments. At least twice during Gooch’s time at NES, a hangman’s noose was found in the workplace.
Nevertheless, Gooch was disappointed by the promotion denial because the committee charged with picking the winning candidate had ranked him ahead of the white man who got the job. Gooch filed an internal grievance over the committee’s decision, but his appeal was turned down.
A short time later, the COVID-19 pandemic began and Gooch asked to work from home. Although all his white colleagues were allowed to stay home, Gooch was ordered to continue coming into work. He soon tested positive for COVID-19.
Legal challenge: Gooch retired, then sued NES for a racially hostile workplace.
The ruling: The employer lost. The court refused to dismiss the lawsuit, saying NES failed to address the racist behavior despite Gooch’s complaints.
Based on Gooch v. Electric Power Board of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County.
(From the July 15, 2022, issue of HR Managers Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)