Pennsylvania State Police Prevail in Racial Discrimination Case

Author: Stephen D. Hans

Recently, a racial discrimination case filed by former Pennsylvania state police corporal, Maurice Burton was thrown out.  The main allegation of the case was that Burton claimed he was penalized for his on-the-job interaction with a white female co-worker.

Burton, who is black and now a retired state police corporal, sued the state police over two years ago, claiming that, because of his race, his relationship with a co-worker was subjected to undue scrutiny from his superiors.  He also alleged that he was unjustly investigated after reporting a supervisor who made inappropriate sexual comments, was subjected to unwarranted discipline, and denied a promotion to sergeant, because he was black.

The state police argued that Burton’s on-the-job interaction with the woman was over the top because the two spent hours together on a daily basis which far exceeded the time required for work purposes.  An investigation spurred by Burton’s complaints about a supervisor also called into question whether the two had lied about not socializing outside the office, police claimed.

The judge sided with the state police.  In her 60-page ruling on the case, Judge Sylvia H. Rambo found that Burton had not provided sufficient proof for any of his discrimination claims.  She wrote that his failure to make sergeant was due to his own “mediocre” performance on tests for that rank, not because of his race and that his superiors “had a legitimate prerogative to curb his admitted excessive socialization in the workplace.”

Proving race discrimination
Just because an employee files a discrimination complaint or lawsuit against you, it is not a foregone conclusion that they will prevail.  In order for an employee to prove racial discrimination against your company, he or she must make a showing of a prima facie case, which has four parts:

•    The employee is in a protected class
•    The employee is qualified for a job or performing adequately
•    The employee was denied a job benefit, or subjected to a negative job action
•    The person who got the benefit was of a different race or the employer continued to search for other applicants

For instance, if the employee was denied a promotion and believes it was because he or she was black, the employee would have to prove that they were qualified, they did not get the promotion, and the person who got the promotion was not black.

You then, as the employer present your evidence showing that you had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for your decision – such as a lack of skills, experience, licensing or training for the position.

The employee then still has the burden of proving that your explanation for your actions were insufficient or used as a way of covering your discrimination.  For instance, he or she may try to show that the person who got the promotion had less experience, knowledge, skills or other qualifications and/or that your company never promoted a person to that position who was of his or her ethnicity.

Get legal help for NY employee discrimination complaints
The good news is that employers are not doomed to lose racial discrimination cases automatically.  However, whenever such complaints are filed they should be taken seriously and handled appropriately.  And experienced NY employment law attorney can help you determine what evidence might exist to defend a discrimination case an offer advice on your best legal options.  To discuss an employee discrimination case or other employee disputes contact us online today.

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