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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Employee Claims Unlawful Firing When She Was Subjected To Racist Remarks By Decision-Maker

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Having represented employment discrimination victims for more than two decades, our Marion County, Florida unlawful termination lawyers have learned that discriminatory remarks by employees involved in the decision to fire an employee are the most powerful evidence of a discriminatory termination. Although not required to prove discrimination, discriminatory remarks by employees involved the termination decision reflect that the termination was motivated by discriminatory animus. As the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Hunt v. City of Markham 219 F.3d 649 (7th Cir. 2000) explained, when decision-makers, or those who have input into the termination decision, make discriminatory remarks, “then it may be possible to infer that the decision-makers were influenced by those feelings in making their decision.” In this article, our Ocala, Florida unlawful termination attorneys explain how the decision in Bacchus v. New York City Dep’t of Education, 2015 WL 5774550 (E.D. N.Y. Sept. 30, 2015)illustrates that discriminatory remarks by employees involved in the termination decision are evidence that discrimination was the real reason for the termination decision.

Employee Claims She Was Unlawfully Fired

In that case, Merlene Bacchus (Bacchus) brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, the New York City Department of Education (DOE), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII protects employees from discrimination on the basis of race and national origin. Bacchus claims that the DOE violated Title VII by terminating her employment because of her race and national origin.

Bacchus, who is a black woman of Guyanese national origin, was employed by the DOE from 1994 until March 11, 2011 as a school aide. From September 2007 until she was fired on March 11, 2011, Bacchus was assigned to work at Public School 259 (PS 259). The principal at PS 259 was a woman named Thompson. Prior to working at PS 259, Bacchus had never had any disciplinary charges brought against her.

Bacchus testified that between 2009 and 2011, she frequently heard Thompson say that she did not like West Indian women and that they could not speak English. Bacchus further testified that Thompson regularly shouted at her, mocked her, and told her to “learn to speak the English language.” Other school administrators at PS 259, according to Bacchus, also regularly mocked her accent and laughed at her when she spoke. One administrator, Bacchus testified, referred to her as “Aunt Jemima” at least twice a week.

In February 2011, two sixth-graders approached a school administrator about issues they were allegedly having with Bacchus. The administrator told them to write statements documenting the issues. Their statements alleged that Bacchus had called another sixth-grader “fat boy” while in the auditorium. The administrator then asked the alleged target of the remark to provide a statement, and he stated that Bacchus had called him “fat boy.” Bacchus alleges that the administrator, who had regularly mocked her accent and laughed at her when she spoke, manipulated the students into providing the statements. Thompson deemed the allegations against Bacchus regarding the incident to be substantiated and fired Bacchus. Bacchus was replaced by a white school aide of Polish descent who had previously been laid off due to budget cuts.

Racist Remarks Reflect Unlawful Firing

The DOE filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Bacchus’ discriminatory discharge claim. In demanding that the trial court dismiss the case, the DOE argued that the evidence conclusively established that Bacchus was fired for verbally abusing a student, which was corroborated by three written statements, and not because of her race and/or national origin. The trial court denied the DOE’s motion for dismissal and ruled that whether Bacchus was fired because of her race and/or national origin was “a question left for the jury to decide at trial.”

In denying the DOE’s motion for dismissal, the trial court focused on the alleged discriminatory remarks by Thompson. The trial court pointed out that Bacchus testified that she “frequently” overheard Thompson say that she did not like West Indian women and that they could not speak English. Bacchus further testified, the trial court noted, that Thompson told her to “learn to speak the English language.” Because Thompson made the decision to fire Bacchus, the trial court found that “Thompson’s remarks were probative of discriminatory animus based on race or national origin.” Consequently, the trial court concluded that a reasonable juror could find that Bacchus’ termination was motivated by unlawful race or national origin discrimination.

Consult With Ocala, FL Unlawful Discharge Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida unlawful termination attorneys have been fighting for employees’ rights for more than two decades. If you have been unlawfully fired or have questions about your protection against unlawful termination under the federal employment laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida unlawful termination lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take unlawful termination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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