Sunday, September 26, 2010

Northen California Judge allows discrimination case against USPS to go to trial

While these are the characters of Final Fantasy VII, this
blog uses them to represent Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
and it's cousin the California Fair Employment and Housing
Act.  Photo Courtesy of Andrew Becraft.  
On Thursday, Judge Richard Seeborg denied summary judgment in an employment discrimination case against the U.S. Postal Service allowing the case to proceed to trial.

Harold Black is a Filipino man who worked for the postal service for several years before obtaining a probationary job as a Sales and Service Distribution Associate in Bolinas, CA.  He did not get along well with his supervisor who fired him three days after he began work for allegedly throwing AAA fliers away instead of sorting them.  Black disputed his termination, and instituted an EEOC complaint stating that his supervisor fired him because of race, gender and national origin and that she made up him throwing away mail as a pretext. As a result of the EEOC mediation, Mr. Black obtained a SSDA position at the Petaluma, CA post office.  There, he failed the window examination and was terminated.

Mr. Black sued the postmaster general for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act alleging that he was terminated because of race, national origin or gender and that the window exam was used as a pretext since no one had ever been terminated for failing the window exam.  Alternately, he claims he was fired as retaliation for his EEOC complaint.  The post office countered that the Mr. Black received the Petaluma position as a part of a "last chance agreement" for poor performance in Bolinas. The employees who were not terminated for failing the window exam were not similarly situated - one had already finished her probationary period and another was not under a "last chance agreement."

Judge Seeborg granted summary judgment for the postal service on the disparate treatment claim.  He noted that the postmaster claims and Mr. Black does not contest that employees subject to a last chance agreement that failed the window examination were retained.  Accordingly, there was no triable showing of disparate treatment.

However, Judge Seeborg noted that there was a factual dispute about the nature of the "last chance agreement":

A jury could infer that Black essentially had to comply with stricter requirements than his fellow employees because his complaint won him the second chance. The same jury might also conclude that the same agreement was entirely the product of Black’s alleged misbehavior in Bolinas, and not because he participated in a protected activity. These facts are in dispute, and their resolution, therefore, belongs to a fact-finder.
The case is Black v. Potter No. C. 08-1344 and the opinion is below the jump.

Here is the opinion:
Black v. Potter

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