Training seems to be all the rage these days. From a possible new bill here in Delaware that would require sexual harassment training for employers with more than 50 employees, to implicit bias training, it seems that employers are realizing that the old standards of training aren’t enough. This has come about for many reasons. Continue reading
Thomas Vaughan Jr. worked at Boeing’s Ridley Park plant for 18 years, most recently as a composite fabricator. But in 2013, he began having issues. That year, he was briefly terminated following an altercation with a supervisor. His termination was revoked, however, after the Union negotiated a settlement, allowing him to return to work in October 2013, under a “Last Chance” Agreement.
But Vaughan continued to have problems, even though he was in a new role. Upon returning to work, Vaughan required two certifications to begin to work at his new position. Before he got certification, he was assigned to a temporary sweeping position. Vaughan was disgruntled that the training was not happening fast enough, and that those responsible for the training were acting “dismissively” toward him. Nevertheless, he eventually got the certifications and began his job attaching fuel bags.
Boeing continued to see performance issues with Vaughan. First he left foreign object debris (FOD) on an aircraft during his break. FOD includes anything that is foreign to an aircraft—from tools to stray scraps. Because of the damage this could do to an aircraft, Boeing requires that all FOD be removed. The next issue occurred when Vaughan’s new supervisor noticed that he had left his tools out on a cart overnight, rather than store them in his locker. Following this incident, Vaughan’s manager found that Vaughan had left paper backing on an aircraft. Two days after that, one of Vaughan’s coworkers found that he had used a sander without putting his employee marker (called a “chit”) in the space to indicate that he had it.
Following this series of incidents, Vaughan was put on a three-day suspension from his position. Upon his return in January 2014, Vaughan continued to have issues—from once again failing to use his “chit,” to taking unauthorized overtime. Boeing, at the recommendation of Vaughan’s manager, made the decision to terminate Vaughan permanently, citing in the termination memo the most recent incidents involving the “chit” and the overtime.
After returning to Boeing the first time, Vaughan felt that he was not being given the chance to succeed. Boeing, for its part, believed that it had given Vaughan multiple chances and opportunities for training to try to keep him on.
The case seems fairly open and shut: employee breaks company policy on multiple occasions and is fired following several warnings. The problem with this case comes down to race. Thomas Vaughan was the only African American worker on his team. While he did not deny that he had committed these infractions, he also claimed that other white workers made equally significant mistakes, but were not terminated.
Boeing denies that they treated Vaughan any differently than his white coworkers. And as of May 22, 2018, the Third Circuit Court agrees. A three-judge panel ruled that Boeing had sufficient cause for firing Mr. Vaughan and their action was not racially motivated. The Third Circuit’s ruling confirmed a decision by the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granting summary judgment to Boeing.
Choosing to fire an employee is never an easy decision. It is an emotional situation for both parties. But sometimes it needs to be done. Boeing made sure to document the reasons for Vaughan’s termination, as well as work with him to avoid a termination at an earlier date. These are important factors to keep in mind if you are considering terminating an employee.
Litigating against the the EEOC is difficult for several reasons. For one, unlike a lawsuit brought by an individual plaintiff, a suit brought by the EEOC has the resources of the entire federal government behind it. Perhaps because of the agency’s bureaucratic structure, negotiating with EEOC counsel can be difficult during litigation, at times resulting in a total breakdown of communication. A recent decision by a federal court in Illinois illustrates what happens when the lawyers in an employment-discrimination lawsuit take the driver’s seat to the exclusion of the individuals at the heart of the case. Continue reading
Workplace anti-harassment training can be summarized with the title of this post. The fact that an employee laughs at an inappropriate joke is not a legal defense to a later claim at harassment. Nor is an employee’s failure to object to inappropriate workplace conduct. One employer recently learned this lesson the hard way. Continue reading
In Meditz v. City of Newark (PDF), the Third Circuit concluded that the City of Newark, New Jersey’s residency requirement may have unlawful disparate impact on non-Hispanic white applicants. The case was brought Gregory Meditz, an attorney acting pro se. Meditz alleged that the City’s residency requirement disparately impacted white, non-Hispanics and, as a result, white, non-Hispanics were under-represented in the City’s workforce. Continue reading
Music may be an art form to some. But some music may be a form of harassment. The EEOC has reach an agreement with Novellus Systems wherein the San-Jose based employer will pay $168,000 to a former employee for race-based harassment. The claim alleges that the employee was terminated after he complained about racially offensive music played by a co-worker. Continue reading
Good documentation practices during the hiring process can help employers avoid a failure-to-hire claim. And that’s a good thing, considering that failure-to-hire claims are costly. Just ask Perdue. The poultry company has agreed to a pay out of more than $800k to settle a claim of disparate impact arising from what the DOL concluded to be systematic discrimination against non-Hispanic job applicants. Continue reading