- A hospital did not racially discriminate against an African American part-time nurse when it failed to hire her for a full-time position (Hassen v. Ruston Louisiana Hospital Company, LLC, No. 18-30856 (5th Cir. July 31, 2019)).
- LaBrittany Hassen claimed that she approached her supervisor about two full-time positions but didn't apply for them because her supervisor told her that she wasn't qualified. When she found a full-time nursing job elsewhere, the hospital fired her, she said. The hospital said it "purged" her from the work pool with eligibility for re-hire because the only hours available to its part-time nurses conflicted with the schedule for her new job. The trial court ruled for the hospital on summary judgment.
- On appeal, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling. The court said the hospital had offered a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for not hiring Hassen for a full-time position: Hassen had never applied for such a position. The hospital had also hired at least six other black candidates for registered nurse positions during the time Hassen worked there. There was a dissent in this case expressing concern that the hospital had changed its story about whether or not Hassen had actually applied for a full-time position.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids covered employers from discriminating in every aspect of employment, including hiring, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Better treatment of similarly situated colleagues can be suggestive of illegal retaliation or discrimination. In one recent case, the retaliation claims of an African American lab worker were allowed to move forward, in part, because of evidence that other, similar co-workers were treated better. Offering different reasons for the same employment action can work against an employer, too. Inconsistent reasons given for a trash truck driver's termination helped support his claim of race bias earlier this year.
To prevent race-based discrimination claims, employers may need to adopt anti-discrimination policies and train those involved in hiring as well as managers and supervisors. A robust reporting system is important to handle and defend against discrimination claims in court, experts have said.
With an understanding of the value of a diverse workplace, employers can go beyond training, policies and procedures and pilot initiatives aimed to truly change the underlying corporate culture. HR can work to create and uphold business ethics that support a diverse work environment with buy-in from management.