Best Ohio Race Discrimination Attorneys Reply: Can my boss fire me for asking not to be sent to a racist client? Can my boss fire me for reporting racism by a customer? Can I sue my job for ongoing race discrimination by our clients?
We’ve have all heard that retail mantra: “The customer is always right!” But, the truth is that employers cannot allow customers, patrons or clients to dictate racist or otherwise unlawful discriminatory practices.
All employees are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and R.C. § 4112.02(A) from being discriminated against or retaliated against by their employers on the basis of gender/sex or race/color. Specifically, Title VII prohibits discrimination in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment, on the basis of race/color, religion, gender/sex, national origin, age, disability discrimination while the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA“) and Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA“) provide similar protections based on an employee’s age (over 40) and actual or perceived disability, respectively. Similarly, Ohio R.C. § 4112.02 prohibits discrimination based on gender, race, national origin and religion. Moreover, Title 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 protects the rights of all persons within the United States to “make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property….” In safeguarding these rights, § 1981 also protects employees from retaliatory discharge for engaging in lawfully protected conduct. Yet employers are still discriminating against African-Americans to appease their racist clients.
The law is very clear that a company’s desire to give into to the racial preferences of its customers is not a defense under Title VII for treating employees differently based on race. See, e.g., Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 744 (7th Cir.1999) (evidence of segregated sales force to meet perceived cliental preferences supported Title VII claim); Ferrill v. The Parker Group, Inc., 168 F.3d 468, 477 (11th Cir.1999) (employer’s practice of assigning “get-out-the-vote” phone calls based on race violated Title VII); see also Fernandez v. Wynn Oil Co., 653 F.2d 1273, 1276-77 (9th Cir. 1981) (rejecting customer preference defense in sex discrimination context and relying on EEOC holding that Title VII does not permit the accommodation of the racially discriminatory policies of foreign nations). In fact, our employment discrimination lawyers blogged about unlawful race discrimination when the Waffle House gave into racist patrons. We also blogged about Tonya Battle, a black nurse, that sued and settled with Hurley Medical Center, when gave into the swastika wearing patient that did not want to be treated by black people.
Recently in Smith v. Spectrum Health System, home health aide TaTanisha Smith was fired after she reported to her superiors that a client’s daughter was racist towards her. Smith is an African American woman who was employed as a home health aide with Spectrum Health System from 2009 through 2014. Spectrum had in the past gave in to the racist demands of patients. In March 2012, Smith had been assigned to a 24–hour care patient who suffered from brain injuries. However, she was removed from the case because the patient, who was white, did not want African American care givers. Smith filed suit but it was ultimately dismissed based on procedural issues.
Then in March 2014 Smith requested that she be removed from a particular client’s home alleging that the daughter was a racist and treated Smith poorly. Smith’s supervisors conducted an investigation that ultimately faulted Smith rather than the client for the incident. The supervisors refused to follow company procedure and fired Smith just thirteen days after she reported the racist conduct. When Spectrum sought to challenge Smith’s complaint, the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan held that Smith could show that she was fired for pre-textual reasons. Even though Smith’s complaint dealt with racist behavior from a client and not her supervisor or co-worker, Spectrum could not legally fire her for reporting the racist behavior.
Specifically, the trial court held:
To establish a prima facie claim of racial discrimination under Title VII, a plaintiff must show that (1) she is a member of a protected class, (2) she is qualified for the position, (3) she suffered an adverse employment decision, and (4) she was replaced by a person outside the class or she was treated differently from similarly situated non-protected employees. Newman v. Fed. Exp. Corp., 266 F.3d 401, 406 (6th Cir. 2001). Both parties failed to address the legal elements of this claim, but they seemingly dispute the third and fourth prongs.
Plaintiff has produced evidence that, as of January 2015, Defendant was not assigning African American caregivers to a white patient, and had removed African Americans from that patient’s care team. … The scheduler told Plaintiff that she could not assign Plaintiff to that white client. Defendant argues that the scheduler’s reason for not assigning Plaintiff to the white client was that there were no openings available. The scheduler, however, did not specify whether there were openings, whether there was a substitution or back-up list that Plaintiff could get on, or whether Plaintiff could not be assigned to the client because she was not white. Thus, there exists a question of fact whether Defendant was treating Plaintiff differently from white caregivers.
So, what have we learned? Your employer cannot side with its racist customers; your boss cannot allow patrons to discriminate based on your race; and managers cannot yield to a client’s cannot refusal to work with you because you are Black.
If you feel that you are being discriminated based on your race, whatever race that may be, then call the right attorney. Race discrimination includes being harassed, fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, and denied wages. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at (216) 291-4744, you will meet with a race discrimination lawyer from The Spitz Law Firm who will help you determine the best way to pursue your legal claims.
The materials available at the top of this race discrimination page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking: “What should I do …”, “I’m being discriminated against …”, “my boss is discriminating against me because …” or “How do I …”, your best option is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to race discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, attorney Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.