- Colorado Mesa University is facing a lawsuit claiming it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it fired a South Asian woman for behavior it allegedly tolerated from her white, male colleagues (Loecker v. Colorado Mesa University, No. 21-cv-952 (D. Colo., April 2, 2021)).
- When terminating her, the school said the plaintiff, who served as lacrosse coach, generated complaints from players and parents. The coach caused many players to leave the team, required athletes to report their caloric intake and overburdened them through the lacrosse program, the school said.
- But white, male coaches at the school "engaged in the same (or more extreme) behavior" as the plaintiff without punishment, according to the complaint. While the plaintiff said she discussed caloric intake with her players, the baseball coach required his players to participate in weigh-ins, and the tennis coach led "difficult and frank discussions" with athletes about calories, nutrition and eating disorders.
Uneven discipline may be considered evidence of discrimination or retaliation. Employers cannot consider a person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information when administering discipline or discharge, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
An employer may not, for instance, discipline two employees differently because of one’s protected characteristic if they committed similar offenses.
But protected characteristics do not insulate workers from discipline. While some plaintiffs have had success in moving their cases forward by showing evidence of uneven discipline, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals sided with an employer that fired a code inspector who generated a historically large number of complaints. The inspector, who was White, claimed that non-White inspectors escaped termination for similar offenses. But the court found he presented no evidence of discrimination and the city offered "numerous, legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons" for his dismissal.