Congratulations to AFGE Local 2017 for its recent victory in an employee’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint against the Army.
The employee, a Black public health nurse in the Preventive Medicine Clinic at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center on Fort Gordon. Ga., filed a formal complaint after receiving a letter of reprimand from her superior resulting from a comment she made at a team-building event regarding her choice of ice cream flavor.
AFGE Local 2017 filed a complaint of behalf the employee arguing that the disciplinary action was racially motivated.
After a hearing, the judge agreed that the agency discriminated against the employee based on her race. He said the supervisor would have thought nothing of it had a white person made a similar statement.
The judge said the employer can discipline workers for making comments it deems offensive – with a caveat.
“The employer cannot consider the employee’s membership in any protected class when determining whether the comment in question warrants disciplinary action. When the employee’s membership in any protected class is a factor in the employer determining that discipline is warranted, the employer violates Title VII,” said the judge.
“[A]n unlawful employment practice is established when the complaining party demonstrates that race, color, religion, sex, or national origin was a motivating factor for any employment practice,” he added.
The employee was awarded $9,300 in damages. The agency was also ordered to rescind the letter of reprimand and strike it from the employee’s employment records.
“This victory is just the beginning of what we hope will be an even greater series of successes for our members and bargaining unit employees,” said Local 2017 President Larissa Ranaldson. “Local 2017 is tenacious and unyielding in the face of discrimination and disparate treatment and we are proud that this recent EEO ruling echoes that sentiment.”