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Friday, March 9, 2012

Discipline Done Right Wins 11th Circuit Case


Alabama@Work
By: Tommy Eden, Attorney

Kasib Jarvis, an African-American, was fired by Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc., (“Siemens”) and filed his lawsuit alleging employment discrimination based on race and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Jarvis worked as a “network consultant” for Siemens and his duties essentially consisted of assisting customers in implementing Siemens’ medical equipment. The U.S. District Court Judge in Georgia granted summary judgment in favor of Siemens and Jarvis appealed.

On April 7, 2008, Jarvis’ supervisor sent an email that his performance did not meet expectations and deficiencies included: consistently missing deadlines and failing to meet various work-related objectives, such as assisting in the development of new services and communicating with customers. On June 2, 2008, Jarvis was officially placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP) which listed specific objectives that Jarvis needed to achieve, including the completion of design specifications for the “Customer Satisfaction Survey” and the “Project Tracking Tool” by June 30, 2008 and stated that a failure to meet the outlined requirements could lead to termination.

Sometime towards the end June 2008, Jarvis complained of racial discrimination to a staff employee in the human resources department.

When it became clear to Jarvis in October 2008 that he might wish to seek other opportunities, he falsified a time record for a 2 day interview and told his supervisor during a phone call he was at his home office when he was obviously in traffic. On October 14, 2008, the supervisor sent a termination letter to Jarvis which provided essentially three reasons for Jarvis’ discharge: (1) unsatisfactory performance, (2) insubordination, and (3) falsification of a timecard.

The 11th Circuit on March 8, 2012 affirmed summary judgment upholding the well documented actions by the Siemens’ supervisor. It recited settled law that “If the employer proffers more than one legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason, the plaintiff must rebut (prove unworthy of credence) each of the reasons to survive a motion for summary judgment.” Jarvis also sought to prove that a comparator was treated differently to which the Count responded, “To establish that a comparator was similarly situated, the plaintiff must show that the quantity and quality of the comparator’s misconduct was nearly identical to his own.” View Court Opinion

Common Sense Counsel: Siemens did 5 things right to win this discrimination case: 1) had a progressive discipline handbook policy; 2) documented deficiencies in clear and object language and used an email trail to prove receipt; 3) used a PIP to show fair opportunity to improve; 4) written discipline prior to discrimination complaint; and 5) included all reasons in termination document.

Tommy Eden is a Lee County native, an attorney with the local office of Capell & Howard, PC and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at tme@chlaw.com or 334-501-1540 or www.alabamaatwork.com