Friday, November 14, 2008

U.S. Supreme Court will hear Massey-Caperton Case

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it has accepted the Caperton vs. A.T. Massey Coal Company case. The court will decide whether Justice Brent Benjamin's refusal to recuse himself violated Caperton's due process rights.

The West Virginia Business Litigation Blog has a good post about the case with links to more news reports.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Title VII is Not a Whistleblower Law, Fourth Circuit Rules

A white police officer who claimed his employer suspended him in an attempt to cover up its own wrongdoing "pleaded himself right out of court" on his Title VII race and sex discrimination claims, the Fourth Circuit held on Monday. Lightner v. City of Wilmington, No. 07-1442 (4th Cir. November 3, 2008) (PDF).

The plaintiff's argument that he was treated more harshly than a black female officer who committed a similar offense did not save his claim because the plaintiff stated several times during the litigation that "the real reason" for his suspension was to halt his internal investigation of wrongdoing by other officers.

Judge Wilkinson, writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, reasoned that "[i]n offering this explanation as to the real reason for the employer’s action, the plaintiff has undone his case. He has tried to take a statute aimed at discrete forms of discrimination and turn it into a general whistleblower statute, which of course Title VII is not."

The court further explained that
Title VII was enacted to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and other legislatively enumerated grounds. It is not a statute intended to police standards of general fairness in the workplace, or even to protect against the firing of an employee in order to cover up wrongdoing by an employer. If it were interpreted in such an omnibus fashion, it would dilute the noble purposes for which Congress enacted it.

The court also found that no prima facie case was created because the black female officer who was treated less harshly was not similarly situated to the plaintiff.