- A Toledo hospital did not discriminate or retaliate against an employee on the basis of her race when it terminated her for violating several company policies, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (Bush v. ProMedica Toledo Hospital, Inc., No. 21-3444 (6th Cir., Jan. 26, 2022)).
- The worker was responsible for checking patients into the hospital, according to court documents. In June 2017, she violated company policy by parking in the emergency room parking lot so she could clock in on time, moving her car to another lot after starting work. This incident gave rise to an argument with a security officer, whose comments to the worker were racially motivated, the worker argued. Roughly two weeks later, a hospital physician complained to HR about the worker's conduct in a patient room.
- Two months later, she parked in the ER parking lot again and was fired. In a meeting with her supervisor, she accused hospital security of conspiring to get her fired — something she described as "a civil-rights issue." Her supervisor instructed her to reach out to HR if she felt her civil rights had been violated, but the worker never contacted the department. She sued, and a district court granted summary judgment for the employer, finding that the plaintiff failed to identify co-workers of other races who committed the same infraction and were disciplined less harshly. The 6th Circuit agreed.
It's not unusual for discrimination litigation to follow the pattern of the claims reviewed by the 6th Circuit when employers introduce ample evidence that supports the reasoning behind an adverse action.
Just last month, the 1st Circuit decided not to rehear a court officer's allegations that his termination stemmed from race discrimination. The ruling upheld an earlier judgment from a 1st Circuit panel that found the officer's termination to be due to insubordination.
In that case, the employer produced a stack of written documentation that supported the worker's firing. It included multiple warnings that documented his poor workplace behavior. The 1st Circuit panel concluded that the record "indisputably" showed that the worker's discipline focused on his "insubordination and failure to comply with a reasonable court order."
Documentation isn't always employers' get-out-of-jail-free card, however. While a lack of documentation can certainly spell trouble for HR, vague documentation, documentation that contains absolutisms or documentation that levies unclear expectations to workers can also land employers in trouble, one HR pro told attendees at a 2019 conference.