Proof Workplace Discrimination Can Happen to Anyone

The attorneys at Walcheske & Luzi, LLC are continually surprised by the number of people who believe workplace discrimination could never happen to them. It is important to protect yourself and not assume others always have your best interest at heart. We’ve compiled workplace discrimination examples that demonstrate it can and does happen, and sometimes with a surprising twist. This one’s for the non-believers.

Workplace Discrimination Example 1

Back in 2010, a Milwaukee, WI federal court judge found that Johnny Kimble, an African-American, had been discriminatorily denied raises and promotions over the course of multiple years and treated more negatively than his peers, based on the combination of his race and gender (being an African-American male).

Credit: Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

The employer which discriminated against Mr. Kimble was the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development – Equal Rights Division.  You know, the Division that enforces Wisconsin’s anti-discrimination laws as contained in the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act?

Mr. Kimble was first employed by the Department as an Equal Rights Officer, responsible for investigating discrimination and retaliation claims, before being promoted to the position of Supervisor.  For the last 29 years of his career, from 1976 to 2005, he was the Section Chief, supervising the Division’s Milwaukee office. Mr. Kimble was subjected to discriminatory behavior during the time J. Sheehan Donoghue was the division administrator.

To recap, a federal court judge ruled the supervisor of the Equal Rights Division in Milwaukee, responsible for enforcing Wisconsin’s anti-discrimination laws, experienced workplace discrimination. The judge found the Department of Workforce Development and the former administrator of the Equal Rights Division, J. Sheehan Donoghue, guilty of discrimination.

Workplace Discrimination Example 2

More recently, on July 30, 2012, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit revived a lawsuit in which a woman claimed her employer discriminated against her based on her disabilities – multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus.

Her employer? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces federal anti-discrimination and retaliation laws.

The employee? A former Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for the EEOC.  As an ALJ for the EEOC, the employee was tasked with determining whether unlawful discrimination and/or retaliation had occurred.

Mary Bullock has alleged that the EEOC retaliated against her for seeking accommodations for her disabilities and for complaining of disability discrimination when her requests for accommodation were ignored. Bullock claims that she was denied a promotion, was disallowed from working at home as an accommodation, was ostracized by the EEOC, and that the EEOC imposed tighter deadlines on her as compared to her non-disabled, non-complaining peers, as retaliation.

So, again to recap, an individual who decided, on behalf of the federal government, whether discrimination or retaliation had occurred, was herself discriminated and retaliated against.

Moral of the Story

Discrimination and retaliation can and do occur.  Simply because it has never happened to you as an employee, or because it has never (knowingly) occurred in your company, does not mean that these types of employment claims are a thing of the past.

Read the comments left online to any newspaper articles regarding discrimination or retaliation lawsuits and you might be surprised at the number of individuals who state their beliefs that the claims are actually scams.

Trust us when we say that discrimination and retaliation claims are nothing to joke about and need to be taken very seriously. This is particularly true for business owners, taking these claims lightly is only an invitation for liability that could otherwise be avoided.

This is also true if you are an employee. If those who are trusted with enforcing anti-discrimination laws can be the victims of unlawful discrimination, it certainly can happen to you too.