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7th Circuit affirms court in retaliation claim

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A man who claimed he was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for claiming racial discrimination at his workplace was fired for just cause, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

From 2005 to August 2007, Kenneth Harper – who is African-American – was an instructor for truck driving school C.R. England Inc. In March 2007, he alleged that another African-American employee called him a racial epithet within earshot of his immediate supervisor, Eric Metzler, who is also African-American. Metzler said he never heard the insult, and after interviewing other people who had been in the room with Harper, he was unable to substantiate Harper’s claims.

In July 2007, Metzler met with Harper to issue several written warnings about his poor attendance, telling him he could not miss any more work for the remainder of the year. Harper subsequently took several days off to attend his sister’s wedding. In August, Harper was fired; by that time, he had missed 17 days of work in 2007.

Following the termination of his employment, Harper filed a charge of racial discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against C.R. England. On March 6, 2008, after receiving a “right to sue letter” from the EEOC, Harper filed a complaint in the Porter Superior Court, alleging racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e et seq. C.R. England removed the case to the District Court and, once removal was effected, moved for summary judgment.

The District Court concluded Harper had failed to set forth a prima facie case, under either the direct or indirect method of proof, to support his claim that C.R. England had retaliated against him for reporting what he believed to be unlawful racial discrimination. The 7th Circuit affirmed the District Court’s findings in Kenneth Harper v. C.R. England, Incorporated, No. 11-2975.

 

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