Yesterday, I wrote about a man who claimed that his employer retaliated against him by forcing him to resign after he objected to attending workplace training on anti-racism and gender identity.
It was a good story. We employment lawyers have plenty of them. But, perhaps, it wasn’t great.
But what if I told you that the man’s son also worked for the same employer, objected to attending the same training modules, and eventually sued the same employer for race and religious discrimination?
According to the court’s decision — spoiler alert: the son lost too — the son is a Christian and 25% Native American. He worked for the defendant for nine years as a forensic specialist.
Like dad, he received an email from his supervisor directing him (and others) to complete workplace trainings titled “How to be Antiracist” and “Understanding Gender Identity and Expression: Moving Beyond the Binary.”
Like dad, the son opposed the anti-racism training because he equated it to Critical Race Theory, which he views as violating “the traditional view of equality under Title VII.” He also opposed the gender identity training because he views the concept of nonbinary gender to be “contrary to his sincerely held religious belief.” The son shared his objections with two supervisors and sought but was denied a religious exemption from the trainings.
About a year later, the son applied for another position within the organization. However, the company did not select him ostensibly because he was unqualified.
But the son wasn’t buying it. So, he filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and sued for race and religious discrimination, among other things.
In a failure-to-hire context, the elements of each claim are similar. Other than not being selected for the position, a plaintiff must show that he is a member of a protected group (and the employer knew it), was qualified and applied for a promotion to an available position, and similarly situated employees who are not part of the protected group were promoted instead.
In both instances, the son “formulaically” alleged in his Complaint that “[o]ther similarly-situated employees, who are not in the same protected class as Plaintiff, were not denied the opportunity for such a promotion.”
When you’re in federal court alleging violations of federal antidiscrimination law, you don’t have to plead your case with the same particularity and detail as you may in other venues. However, you can’t rest on bare, conclusory allegations either.
Here, the court noted that such a “threadbare allegation is not sufficient to plausibly allege that similarly situated employees of a different religion, who also objected to the diversity training, applied for and were promoted to the permanent Group Supervisor Assistant position.” Plus, the Complaint didn’t say who got the job. Perhaps it was a member of Norgren’s protected group. If so, that would eviscerate his race discrimination claim.
Accordingly, the court concluded that the son failed to state race or religious discrimination claims.
Sometimes I can’t make this stuff up.