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Employers Must Be Careful When Using Race in Business Decisions

Posted by Frank Steinberg | Apr 14, 2008 | 0 Comments

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.

About the Author

Frank Steinberg

Frank is the founder and principal of Steinberg Law, LLC. A Jersey boy born and bred, he focuses on employment litigation and counseling, business litigation,  and aviation law. Following law school and a clerkship in the federal district court Frank spent his early career with large litigation ...

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