USA Today reports on the settlement by Xerox Corporation, for $12 million, of a race discrimination case brought by a class of its sales people. The case was filed on behalf of a class of current and former black sales representatives.
According to the story:
The workers said they were assigned to less profitable territories than white co-workers or were assigned to territories based on their race. They also contend they were passed over for more lucrative territories, promotions, and were denied commissions they had earned.
One plaintiff was assigned a territory in the Bronx, New York. The position required a car. The employee objected to the assignment on the basis of undue hardship since he did not have a car. His manager allegedly told him he received the assignment because "blacks and the Bronx go hand in hand."
Assuming for the sake of argument that Xerox's reason for the assignment was as stated, and further assuming that assigning sales representatives to territories on the basis of perceived compatibility with the prospective customer base is a legitimate basis for a business decision, this case illustrates the danger to employers from making decisions on the basis of the group identity of protected classes of employees.
We note that Xerox denied wrongdoing, and said that it settled the case to relieve itself of the burden of the continuation of a lengthy and expensive litigation.