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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
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How Discriminatory Supervisors Target Workers For Discharge: Baseless Allegations Of Misconduct

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Having represented employment discrimination victims for more than two decades, our Marion County, Florida labor lawyers know that the most common method used by supervisors who harbor discriminatory animus to target employees for termination is to make baseless allegations of workplace misconduct. In far too many cases, our Ocala, Florida labor attorneys have learned, the employee’s workplace behavior is characterized as misconduct based exclusively on the subjective opinion or exclusive knowledge of the discriminatory supervisor. In other words, the discriminatory supervisor is the one who characterizes the employee’s workplace behavior as insubordination, argumentative, or confrontational, or the only one who observed the employee’s workplace behavior. In some cases, discriminatory supervisors even deliberately provoke employees to bring about their termination. Employers then use the discriminatory supervisor’s subjective opinion or exclusive knowledge to justify the employee’s termination. In this article, our Marion County, Florida labor lawyers explain how the alleged facts in Bell v. SL Green Realty Corp., 2022 WL 2819054 (S.D. N.Y. July 19, 2022) are illustrative of how discriminatory supervisors target workers for termination through baseless allegations of misconduct.

Discriminatory Discharge Lawsuit

In that case, a woman named Bell brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, SL Green Realty Corp. (SL Green), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Under Title VII, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of race. Bell, who is Hispanic, claims that she was fired because of her race in violation of Title VII.

In March 2005, Bell began working at SL Green as a light duty cleaner. From September 2012 until her termination, Bell was supervised by a woman who held the title of Manager. Bell was also the Local 32BJ union representative. Between October 2013 and November 2015, Bell was issued seven employee warning notices and two suspensions without pay. The warnings and suspensions pertained to, among other things, Bell’s work performance, tardiness, and insubordination in the course of her disputes with the Manager surrounding the company’s uniform policy and cleaning protocol.

On one occasion, Bell’s co-worker had informed his supervisor that he was having health issues, possibly because of the cleaning products. When the co-worker was invited to discuss the matter with the Manager, Bell also attended the meeting in her capacity as the union representative. During that that meeting, the co-worker and Bell became argumentative and confrontational with the Manager. Following this event, Bell was suspended for encouraging the co-worker “to act with animosity towards his supervisor” and for “openly questioning her supervisor as to her qualifications and job responsibilities.” Based on the review of this incident, other witness statements, and Bell’s disciplinary history, SL Green fired Bell in November 2015.

Alleged Discriminatory Supervisor

Bell testified to various forms of discriminatory treatment by her direct supervisor, the Manager. She testified in her deposition that the Manager enforced the uniform policy openly against Hispanic employees and allowed white employees to clock-in without uniforms and take longer breaks. She also testified that the Manager made at least two racist comments. The Manager once directed Bell to kneel down on the floor to clean the legs of a chair and table, and when Bell asked why she had to kneel, the Manager said: “That’s what I have your people for, not mine.” On another occasion, the Manager stated at a luncheon in May 2013 that maintenance workers should not listen to Bell because “no Hispanics should be given attention to.” The Manager denies having made these remarks.

Supervisor’s Conduct Taints Decision

SL Green filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Bell’s discriminatory discharge claim. In moving for dismissal, SL Green argued that the evidence established Bell was terminated for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons—she “failed to follow instructions, was excessively late, and displayed a blatant disregard for authority resulting in her being issued at least seven warning notices, [and] two suspensions without pay”—and not because of her race. The trial court denied SL Green’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Bell had presented sufficient evidence to establish that she was fired because of her race in violation of Title VII to proceed to a jury trial.

In denying SL Green’s motion for dismissal, the trial court focused on the alleged discriminatory animus of the Manager. The trial court observed that the evidence reflected “the Manager’s animus towards Hispanic people and toward [Bell] as a Hispanic person.” The trial court also pointed out that Bell “had a long history of employment with [SL Green], and the termination followed alleged discriminatory conduct by the relatively new Manager.” The Manager, the trial court noted, became Bell’s supervisor in September 2012 and Bell was terminated in November 2015, “after a series of incidents of insubordinate behavior, starting in October 2013.” In other words, the trial court reasoned, Bell’s problems at work began once the allegedly discriminatory Manager became her direct supervisor. Based on this evidence, the trial court found that a “reasonable jury could conclude that reports of [Bell’s] insubordinate behavior were exaggerated or that the behavior was proved by the hostile Manager for discriminatory reasons.”

Marion County Labor Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our labor attorneys in Marion County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of employment discrimination victims. If you have been discriminated against at work or have questions about your rights as an employment discrimination victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our labor lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination 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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