Best Ohio National Origin Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can my supervisor yell at me for speaking with an accent? I’m an at-will employee, do I still have a wrongful termination claim? I think I am being treated differently because of my race, is that illegal? Can I sue for discrimination if I am in the military?
A difficult part of the job as employment law attorneys is trying to bridge the gap between legal elements, and the facts of a case, and then try to anticipate the interpretation of a jury or court. Although it can be hard to explain the law, I’ve found that sometimes, the best way to understand complex concepts is through analogy or example. Sometimes it’s helpful to look at situations from movies that employees can relate to, like in our previous blogs about religion, disability, or gender discrimination. For instance, to understand some of the issues in the case that is the topic of this blog, it’s helpful to consider a classic film that has some of the most recognizable dialogue in the history of motion pictures: A Few Good Men.
In case you haven’t seen it, the plot involves a trial of two marines who were accused of murdering a fellow marine. In trying to craft a defense, the attorneys for the marines, played by Demi Moore, Tom Cruise, and Kevin Pollak, uncover information that the death occurred after a higher ranking officer, portrayed by Jack Nicholson, ordered the marines to perform a “code red.” A code red was meant to be a hazing ritual, but it ended up going horribly wrong and causing the death. Cruise’s character is Lt. Daniel Kaffee and at a pivotal moment in the trial, Kaffee goes toe to toe with Nicholson’s character, Col. Nathan R. Jessup on the witness stand. Kaffee and Jessup deliver the following dialogue (watch one of my favorite lawyer movie scenes):
Kaffee: You coerced the doctor!
Judge: Consider yourself in contempt!
Kaffee: Colonel Jessup, did you order the Code Red?!
Judge: You don’t have to answer that question!
Jessup: I’ll answer the question. You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I’m entitled!
Jessup: You want answers?!
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessup: You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a d*** what you think you are entitled to!
Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?
Jessup: I did the job that—-
Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?!!
Jessup: YOU’RE G**D*** RIGHT I DID!!
Besides just being a great scene from a great movie, the fact that the marines on trial are represented by military personnel in a special military court shows that not all “employees” are subject to the same rules and same laws. As we’ve blogged about before, sometimes, individuals are employed on different terms, for instance:
- At-will basis – the employee can be terminated with or without just cause – check out our recent blog about “at-will” employment;
- An employee has an employment contract – terminating the employee outside of the terms in the contract may be actionable under a break of contract action;
- Subject to a collective bargaining unit as a member of a union
- Employees of federal/state/local government.
The employment discrimination case for this blog comes from a member of the military, Lt. Col. Pierre Saint-Fleur. Although Saint-Fleur’s case may not have turned out exactly how he wanted, his situation is still applicable for other types of employees.
Saint-Fleur, a black man of Haitian descent, served in the army for nearly 25 years. In 1988 he became a commissioned officer and served as a reserve chaplain in the California Army National Guard. In 2005, 2006, and 2010, Saint-Fleur spent three tours as a deployed chaplain in Iraq and Kuwait. Saint-Fleur’s three tours made him the most deployed chaplain in the State of California, and during his entire career, Saint-Fleur earned other honors, promotions, until he retired in December 2012.
Sometime in 2010, Saint-Fleur sought to be promoted to the rank of Colonel, and was in the running for an appointed position of State Chaplain. In early 2011, Saint-Fleur learned that he did not receive either the appointed position or the promotion to Colonel, and instead, the California National Guard promoted a lower-ranked, white officer. Saint-Fleur applied to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (the “Board”) and claimed that the decision to promote the junior-ranking white officer was discriminatory based on his race and national origin.
In his application, Saint-Fleur alleged additional instances of discrimination including:
- State Chaplain, Robert A. Johnson, yelling, cursing, pointing a finger, or making fun of Saint-Fleur’s accent and national origin;
- Johnson told Saint-Fleur he should never have been in the U.S. military;
- Johnson placed Saint-Fleur under a lower ranking chaplain, and referenced the improper subordination in Saint-Fleur’s military records.
The Board eventually denied Saint-Fleur’s application, and Saint-Fleur appealed to a Federal court under the Administrative Procedure Act seeking to have the decision overturned or return his application sent back to the Board for further consideration. Saint-Fleur requested that the court apply an analysis from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in his claim, but the United States District Court, District of Columbia rejected his request, holding:
None of the ABCMR’s governing regulations compel the Board to review a discrimination claim as would a federal court. See generally 32 CFR 581.3. Judicial decisions are to the same effect. A court in this jurisdiction previously has held that “Title VII does not apply to uniformed members of the military.” Collins v. Sec’y of Navy, 814 F. Supp. 130, 131 (D.D.C. 1993). Further, every Court of Appeals to reach the issue has held that Title VII is inapplicable to uniformed members of the military. See Veitch v. England, 471 F.3d 124, 127 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (collecting cases). Courts in this jurisdiction—and in many others—therefore reinforce the conclusion that the ABCMR need not review discrimination claims of uniformed service members under the legal framework of Title VII.
In the end, the Court sent Saint-Fleur’s charge back to the Board to exclusively make a determination on one of his claims – that he was placed under the command of a lower ranking officer. Just like in the movie discussed above, Saint-Fleur’s claim exemplifies that military personnel have special rules that apply to their employment situations.
However, if you are like most employees in Ohio, your employment is likely at-will. If you have experienced behavior or conduct similar to what Saint-Fleur alleged (passed up for promotion, treated less favorably than employees of a different race or national origin, supervisor made offensive or disparaging comments about your race or national origin) then you may have a claim. Most employees in Ohio are covered under Federal and State laws contained in Title VII and Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02(A). These laws were designed to protect employees from being treated differently based on race and national origin. Specifically, Ohio laws make it an unlawful discriminatory practice for any employer 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” based on race or national origin.
If you are searching “I need a lawyer because I have been wrongfully fired or terminated;” or “I have been discriminated against based on my …” race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability; or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
This employment law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of this page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How do I …”, “What should I do …,” “My boss discriminated against me because …” or “I was fired for …”, it would be best for to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular employment law issue or problem. 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 Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.