Best Ohio Race Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can race be used a factor in a decision to promote? Is it illegal for my boss to use race as a reason to promote an employee? I’m white and was passed up for a promotion; can I sue my employer for discrimination?
We often blog about cases involving race discrimination, and it is sad to note that there seems to be a never ending supply of dismal stories to analyze. Ohio employees should find some comfort in knowing that there are laws in place to protect employees from being passed up for promotions based on race. Eligible employees in Ohio are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and R.C. § 4112.02(A). These laws are designed to prevent employers from using race as a factor to, “discharge without just cause, to refuse to hire, or otherwise to discriminate against that person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment.” The protections afforded in these statutes do not only apply to minorities, the laws are meant to protect all employees, no matter their race. We’ve blogged about cases of so-called “reverse discrimination” in the past, and here’s yet another one out of Louisiana. In Pace v. Livingston Parish School Board, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision dismissing the employee’s claims of race discrimination for allegedly not presenting enough evidence to support the jury’s verdict.
The suit was filed by Sandra Pace, a former employee of the Livingston Parish School District. Pace became an employee of the school district in 1985, and from 1990 until her retirement in 2013, Pace worked in the position of purchasing agent. In 2006 the district created a new position for a warehouse manager. Pace and six other candidates applied for the position, but the final decision seemed to come down to either Pace, or another district employee, Ron Colar. Pace is a Caucasian female and Colar is an African American male. The problem, as Pace saw it, was that the district superintendant, Randy Pope, lobbied the school board and applied pressure on its members to select Colar for the position. Two of the members of the board testified that Pope told them that he had received communications from the Livingston Parish Black Voters League regarding their concern over a lack of black workers in supervisory positions. Ultimately, Pope made the recommendation to the board to hire Colar and the board approved the superintendent’s recommendation.
Although the district claimed that the decision was not based on race and instead on the applicants’ qualifications, the jury heard testimony from both sides related to the issue of applicable experience and whether each candidate fit the requirements for the position. Frankly, that is what a jury is supposed to do. A jury is supposed to weigh the testimony and evidence put on by both sides in a trial and make a conclusion or decision based on which side is more credible. Here, the requirements for the position that both Pace and Colar applied for. The only requirements called for a high school diploma, five or more years of “warehouse experience,” and a valid license. The posting did not define warehouse experience, but a business manager for the district drafted 13 criteria to assess each candidate’s experience. The jury heard evidence about both Pace and Colar’s qualifications. Pace attempted to show that she met the requirements by presenting evidence of:
1) her twenty-two years working in the school system, 2) her sixteen years as a purchasing agent with the first three years as a de facto warehouse manager, 3) her duties as purchasing agent including the business aspects of managing and overseeing the warehouse, ordering goods for the warehouse, receiving orders into the warehouse, reconciling inventory with purchase orders and accounts payable, and shipping of the inventory from the warehouse to the schools and departments, and/or 4) her efforts in expanding the warehouse by training new employees and modernizing the computer software to better track and deliver shipments into and out of the warehouse. In addition, the jury received the testimony from Brent Bencaz, Pace’s supervisor, that he believed her to be qualified, and Terry Hughes’s testimony that Pace met the thirteen job criteria that she believed the position required.
The jury also heard evidence from the district that Colar’s time spent as a truck driver and custodian counted toward his “warehouse experience.” The district also counted another applicant’s time working at Toys “R” Us completing customer service tasks like cashier duties, completing merchandise returns and accounting for funds and sales from registers. After the jury weighed all the evidence it determined that race was indeed a motivating factor in the district’s decision to promote Colar. In their review of the decision, the appellate court reasoned that:
jury verdicts must be ‘upheld unless a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue.’ Porter, 659 F.3d at 444. In light of the ambiguity in the phrase, the jury considered the employer’s argument that Pace did not have the requisite experience, and found she did.
Although the trial court found that there was not enough evidence to support that finding, an appellate court reversed the decision. In their opinion supporting the decision to reverse and remand the case back to the trial court for the purposes of determining Pace’s damages, the court wrote:
Again, while we may be sympathetic to the possibility that race was not a motivating factor in this selection, the jury’s determination and the great deference we give to it guides our decision. We cannot say that “no rational factfinder could conclude that the action was discriminatory.” … Likewise, we cannot say that “there was abundant and uncontroverted independent evidence that no discrimination had occurred.” Id. The jury’s inferences and ultimate conclusions cannot be said to be wholly unreasonable or irrational.
Although employees may hesitate to seek the guidance of an attorney because they think that the law is designed to only protect a certain group, the case law, and our review of race discrimination cases in our blogs show that the color of your skin isn’t as important as the question of whether your employer made decisions based on that color. This case should also serve as warning to all parties that it is never a given what a jury will do. In this case, the defendant employer, the trial judge and even the appellate court would have decided the case in the employer’s favor on the facts – but at least the appellate court properly gave the jury verdict the deference that it deserves.
If you feel that you are being discriminated based on your race, whatever race that may be, then call the right attorney. Race discrimination includes being harassed, fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, and denied wages. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040, you will meet with a race discrimination lawyer from the Spitz law firm who will help you determine the best way to pursue your legal claims.
The materials available at the top of this race discrimination page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking: “What should I do …”, “I’m being discriminated against …”, “my boss is discriminating against me because …” or “How do I …”, your best option is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to race discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of the Spitz law firm, attorney Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.