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7th Circuit affirms deputy sheriff's firing

January 13, 2012

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has determined the Warrick County Sheriff’s Department didn’t break the law when it fired a probationary deputy sheriff based on violations of standard operating procedures, failure to follow orders and insufficient commitment to the job.

A unanimous decision from a three-judge panel came in Kevin Harris v. Warrick County Sheriff’s Department, No. 10-3706, from the Southern District of Indiana. The case involved the termination of Kevin Harris’s employment about five months into his probationary period as a sheriff’s deputy. He sued the department on allegations that the firing was because he’s African-American, but U.S. Chief Judge Richard Young in Evansville granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of the sheriff’s office, finding insufficient evidence of discrimination.

On appeal, the 7th Circuit found Harris didn’t present evidence to support claims and also didn’t advance arguments that he previously made at the District level, waiving them on appeal.

The appellate panel also noted that Young didn’t err in drawing a non-dispositive inference in favor of the sheriff’s department based on the “same-actor” theory, which applied because the same person hired and fired Harris, and therefore it is unlikely that person had a discriminatory motive.


 

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