An employee could be legally fired for misconduct even if his supervisor “got the ball rolling” toward his termination as a result of racist attitudes, according to a federal court in Philadelphia.
The case involved a black school janitor and a female black principal who strongly disapproved of the janitor’s dating white women. The principal made inappropriate comments to the janitor, made false accusations against him, and told co-workers that he had “a target on his back.”
One day, police reported to the principal that the janitor had been seen leaving the school after hours with a prostitute, who admitted that they had sex in the building.
The principal then reported the incident to school district authorities, who held two hearings and recommended that the janitor be terminated.
The janitor sued for race discrimination. Although there was no reason to think the school district authorities who fired him were racist, he claimed the whole termination process never would have gotten started if the principal didn’t resent him for dating a white teacher.
But the court sided with the school district. It said that as long as there were legitimate grounds for termination, and the people who actually made the firing decision weren’t motivated by racism, the fact that the janitor’s boss had inappropriate attitudes didn’t matter.