New job can’t settle reverse bias suit—but $425,000 will

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Shortly before Genesee County reorganized Dennis Goodman’s department, Goodman, a white motor pool administrator, received an e-mail containing an alleged racially biased remark. When the re-org happened, Goodman lost his job.

He filed suit under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, alleging racism caused his termination.

A state court dismissed the case, noting that, while Goodman’s black supervisor had sent the e-mail, the county commissioners drafted the reorganization plan. But an appeals court reinstated the case, finding evidence of “racially motivated input into the decision-making process.”

The county agreed to place Goodman in a secretarial position with the county health department at approximately the same salary. But he sued again, noting that under the county’s collective-bargaining agreement, his former position would now have paid him more than his current one.

Again, the circuit court dismissed his suit and the appeals court reinstated it. The sides decided to settle the case for $425,000 to cover the employee’s lost wages and emotional distress.

Note: Racially motivated speech, e-mails or memos do not belong in the workplace. Don’t assume all workers or supervisors know this. Constant training is the only way to limit employer liability for such harassment.

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