“Tristan claims that he was fired because he’s Black,” said HR Manager Alan Frankel. “He’s suing us for race discrimination.”
“That’s too bad,” replied Supervisor Margie Brunton. “I know that Tristan was let go within one hour of showing up for his first day on the job.”
“That was awfully quick, don’t you think?” asked Alan. “Why was he fired?”
“We went through our normal hiring procedures with Tristan,” said Margie. “We conducted a background check and learned that he had a criminal record, but we still hired him.”
“Then what happened?” asked Alan.
“After meeting Tristan on his first day on the job, the orientation manager did a Google search of him,” said Margie. “The search revealed that Tristan had been involved in a shooting incident several years beforehand. Even though Tristan wasn’t charged in the incident, the manager didn’t want him here, so he dismissed Tristan on the spot.”
“Tristan claims that the orientation manager wasn’t involved in the hiring process so he didn’t know Tristan was Black until he showed up for his first day,” said Alan.
“That’s an accurate statement,” said Margie.
“According to Tristan,” said Alan, “the boss wouldn’t have done a Google search of him if he was white.”
“That’s speculation,” said Margie. “The manager made no statements about Tristan’s race. He simply wasn’t comfortable with him working here.”
“I agree,” said Alan. “It might have been unfair for Tristan to have been fired on his first day on the job, but there’s no evidence that the decision was motivated by his race. We’ll fight this lawsuit.”
Did the company win?
Yes. The company won. The court dismissed the lawsuit.
The judge acknowledged that the employer failed to treat the Black man fairly. After all, he’d already gone through the hiring process – which included a background check – and had been offered the job. In fact, he was already at work when he was let go based on something that happened in his past.
However, according to the court, the Black worker failed to prove that the termination decision was motivated by his race. There was no evidence that Google searches were done for only Black workers, and the orientation manager made no comments about the crew member’s race.
Therefore, the Black man could only speculate that the Google search was motivated by his race; speculation alone wasn’t enough to win in court.
What it means: Ensure the hiring process is thorough
This case serves as an important reminder of the importance of making sure that the hiring process is as thorough and comprehensive as it possibly can be.
Even though the company won the case, it wound up footing some big legal bills defending itself in court. Those costs could’ve been avoided if the company had included the Google search as part of its hiring process to begin with. The background check was apparently not comprehensive enough because it didn’t reveal the shooting incident that troubled the orientation manager.
Based on Bing v. Brivo Systems, LLC.
(From the Oct. 23, 2020, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors. to download the current issue of the publication right now, please click here.)