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Employee claims retaliation in race discrimination case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit Court, which covers Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois, made a recent decision regarding a food-services employee who worked for a hospital and claims that she was the victim of racial discrimination. At the heart of the wrongful termination suit is the need for employers to retain accurate records regarding work hours and employment policies.

The woman started her job at the Kenosha, Wisconsin, medical center in 2008 as an assistant chef. When the African-American worker applied for a promotion in 2009, a white woman was given the job instead. She then filed a discrimination claim due to the lack of promotion, additional assignments that she had been given and discipline that she said related to "sham" infractions. Additionally, the woman claimed that the medical center was altering her attendance records in order to give it a reason to fire her. Two months after the claim was filed, she was fired. She then pursued a retaliation claim against the employer, further alleging harassment. The district court ruled in the hospital's favor, but the woman appealed the decision.

The appeals court agreed with the lower court regarding the harassment and promotion claims. However, it found that her claim regarding retaliation had more merit. The medical center said that the woman was fired for consistent tardiness, but the records did not substantiate this claim. The punch detail history did not match up with employer records regarding tardiness. Additionally, the chief officer of clinical services testified that employees were permitted to clock in up to seven minutes late without facing reprimand. The appeals court found that the employee had submitted sufficient evidence to show that she was in compliance with the attendance policies and that the lower court erred.

An employment law attorney may be consulted when the legitimate reason for termination is in dispute. He or she could uncover and present evidence to the contrary.

Source: HR.BLR.com, "Race discrimination: Employer's poor time records, documentation could cost them", Steven L. Brenneman, June 24, 2014

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