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Woman With Thoughts About Killing Her Supervisor Can Maintain Race Discrimination, Sex Discrimination And Retaliation Claims Against Postal Service

A recent case out of the seventh circuit found that a woman who disclosed to her psychiatrist that she was having thoughts about killing her supervisor can proceed with race and sex discrimination claims, along with retaliation claims under Title VII.

If you believe you may have been subject to discrimination at work, it is important to speak to an experiencedGeorgia employment discrimination law firm.

In Coleman v. Donahoe, a female postal employee with fired after she told her psychiatrist about violent thoughts she had concerning her supervisor, including killing him. Denise Coleman was hired in 1974 as a mail-processing clerk, and had a good employment record up until January 2005 when the postal service hired a new supervisor. Within a few months after the new supervisor began working, Coleman sent emails to the head of the postal facility alleging sex discrimination and threatening to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge.

When Coleman subsequently required surgery and requested sick leave, she was treated to harsh working conditions and asked to perform work that would worsen her condition, such as moving heavy boxes and punching a time clock located outside her stair-climbing range. After Coleman went on leave without punching the clock, her supervisor issued an AWOL notice. Coleman then filed for pre-complaint counseling with the EEOC, identifying her supervisor as subjecting her to discrimination.

While in counseling for depression, anxiety and insomnia, Coleman revealed to her psychiatrist that she had both suicidal and homicidal thoughts, including thoughts of killing her supervisor. After treatment ended, Coleman’s psychiatrist informed her supervisor about her homicidal thoughts. Coleman was then immediately terminated by the postal service citing a “no tolerance” policy for work place violence.

In many sex discrimination cases an individual must show that other employees who are “similarly situated” received better treatment that the person complaining of employment discrimination.

Here, as a comparison or others receiving better treatment, Coleman cited an instance where two white males restrained a black man while another white employee threatened him with a knife. The men were suspended for a week, but were not fired.

The court determined that while the employee examples were not “identical comparators,” this standard might be “insurmountable.” Instead whether an individual is “similarly situated” may be determined on a case-by-case basis. Here, the workers who received better treatment (1) dealt with the same supervisor, (2) were subject to the same standards and (3) engaged in similar conduct of comparable seriousness.

As a result, Coleman was allowed to proceed with her claim. This case is important because the Court advocated using a more flexible analysis to determine who may be similarly situated.

For more information about this case or if you believe you have been subjected to sex discrimination, contact the dedicated employment discrimination attorneys in Atlanta at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, LLC, P.C. for a confidential case evaluation.

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