Management's Workplace Lawyers

Title VII – Inconsistent Treatment.

October 30, 2013

A federal district court found potential liability for race discrimination where the police were called in connection with the termination of an African-American employee, but were not summoned in the terminations of other non-African-American employees for similar policy violations.   In Johnson v. Brooks Auto Parts, Inc., a salesperson was terminated and arrested for issuing a fraudulent cash refund.  A company manager requested police presence for the termination because, according to the manager, of the employee’s “physical stature and strength” and the possibility of a poor reaction from the employee.  In bringing his race discrimination claim, the employee noted that non-African-American employees were treated more favorably for similar offenses: (1) a Hispanic employee was also involved in the same fraudulent return, but was not terminated or arrested; (2) a White employee was not terminated for falsifying a cash refund; and (3) the police were not summoned for the termination of a White employee of large stature.  The court found that this could be evidence of race discrimination.  This case illustrates the importance of ensuring that not only should disciplinary decisions be made on a non-discriminatory basis, but that they should also be carried out in a consistent manner.