Forecasting is an art not a science, and truth be known luck is probably the most single important factor if one gets it right, still I could not help but think back to one of my first posts of this year, 2011 — the Year of the Non-minority? where I thought that we might see
more cases where what might be thought to be “non-minority” employees are claiming that they have been treated differently because of their race.
Now a few days before year’s end the 5th Circuit decides Vaughan v. Woodforest Bank (5th Cir. 12/21/11). Ms. Vaughan, a white bank manager who managed a work force that was almost all black was terminated for what was described as “inappropriate comments in the presence of employees and customers that created a perception of racial discrimination and uncomfortable environment due to lack confidentiality.”
The Court reversing a summary judgment in favor of the employer discussed the three comments that were said to underlie this conclusion. Without really saying so, the Court seemed to be saying that the comments did not seem to them to set a racial tone. Although its unclear how much it influenced the decision, it did note that the manager who made the decision to terminate Vaughan had a view that any discussions of race were problematic: “we cannot talk about race in the workplace” and “if you talk about race in the workplace it’s racial discrimination.”
Probably pushing my luck, but I sense that this particular type of case may have more than a one year run.