In September of 2007, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky decided a case that involved a racial discrimination lawsuit. In Couch v. American Woodmark Corp., 2007 WL 2668694 (E.D.Ky.), the facts are as follows. Ms. Couch was hired by the defendant in 2002 as a “Plant Buyer/Lumber Clerk.” Her job was to handle purchasing as well as “keying-in” all lumber received by the plant. Id. On April 14, 2006, Ms. Couch was absent from work and the following day when she returned, she got into a verbal altercation with her boss because she no longer wanted to do the “keying-in.” Id. On April 18, 2006, Ms. Couch again did not want to do the “keying-in” and this time she told it to the defendant’s human resources corporate manager. Id. As a result, the plant manager looked into Ms. Couch’s personnel file and discovered that she had been written up before in 2004 and that part of that write said that she was informed that “any further incidents would result in termination.” Id. Based on this, Ms. Couch was fired on May 10, 2006. Id.
On October 17, 2006, Ms. Couch filed her complaint alleging gender discrimination under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. Id. The defendant removed the case to federal court and sometime later filed the motion for summary judgment asking the court to dismiss the racial discrimination lawsuit. This Court granted the motion for the following reasons.
The Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA) and Title VII prohibit employers from discharging, or otherwise discriminating against, an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Id. “To set for a prima facie case of gender discrimination, a plaintiff must show that: (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she is qualified for her job; (3) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) she was replaced by a person outside her protected class, or similarly situate non-protected employees were treated more favorably. Id. If Ms. Couch satisfies this burden, it then shifts to the defendant to give a non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. Id. If the employer does this then the plaintiff has the burden of showing that such an act was pretextual for what is actually unlawful racial discrimination. id.
The defendant states that it fired Ms. Couch for a legitimate reason. It fired her for insubordination. Id. To satisfy her burden, Ms. Couch must “do more than simply impugn the legitimacy of the asserted justification for her termination.” She “must produce sufficient evidence from which a jury may reasonably reject American Woodmark’s explanation.” (cites omitted). Id. And the Court found that she could not do this. Ms. Couch was fired for insubordination and none of the evidence, even the statistical evidence was good enough for this Court. Id. Ms. Couch tried to argue that the defendant had more men than women in management positions in the company. Id. The Court stated that Ms. Couch’s “statistical evidence has insufficient probative value to support a jury verdict on the ultimate question of discrimination. The mere fact that there are more men than women in management at American Woodmark does not support Ms. Couch’s contention that she was discriminated because of her sex or that American Woodmark’s stated reason for her termination was pretextual.” Id.
The Court did state that Ms. Couch failed to offer any evidence – statistical or otherwise- demonstrating that she would not have been fired if she had been a male. Id. And this is a good point. In these types of gender discrimination cases, the courts do look and do need evidence showing that the company defendant did treat the (in this case female) employee different than if she was a male employee. And that is what potential employee discrimination clients need to understand.
Also, “the Sixth Circuit has held in the context of discipline for violating employer rules that “an employer may successfully rebut any prima facie case of disparate treatment by showing that it honestly believed that the employee committed the violation.” (cites omitted). Id. Ms. Couch did not offer any evidence to rebut the defendant’s legitimate non-discriminatory reason for her termination. Id. Accordingly, Ms. Couch’s race discrimination case was dismissed.
If you have been the subject of a Louisville race discrimination matter, please call and speak to a Louisville race discrimination lawyer at the Law Offices of Andrew S. Alitowski at 888-ASK-ANDREW (275-2637) or contact us online. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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