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Fourth Circuit Says Hyper-Vigilant Supervision Enough to Support Race Discrimination and Retaliation Claim

    Client Alerts
  • July 27, 2018

Here is an alleged fact pattern that if true, will almost guarantee that an employer will write a large check to a former employee:

1. Her supervisor had made well-known her objection to African-American employees in the department.

2. The plaintiff had been given permission to arrive late to work, but the supervisor ignored this instruction, consistently writing her up as tardy.

3. The supervisor monitored and timed her bathroom breaks.

4. The supervisor told the employee that her pants were unacceptable for casual day, and that she needed to take PTO to go home and change.

5. The day after the employee complained about the supervisor’s behavior, she was terminated for tardiness.

6. The supervisor later admitted that despite a negative performance review, the plaintiff’s work was fine, and that she had only disciplined one other employee for similar actions, who was also African-American.

Earlier this month in Strothers v. City of Laurel, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes North Carolina and South Carolina) found that these allegations were sufficient to allow the plaintiff’s Title VII discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims to proceed to a jury for trial.

Employers that allow supervisors to demonstrate this type of alleged bullying and harassment of employees almost ask to be sued by persons subjected to this conduct. Legal risk management makes training, monitoring and active steps to avoid such behavior central to employers’ efforts to maintain workplaces free from improper supervisory conduct.