Judge Gets Whiff of Discrimination, Denies Summary Judgment

July 2009Newsletters California Update - Third Quarter 2009

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A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that an African American employee can proceed to trial on his claim that the company discriminated against him in favor of Hispanic employees. In Harris v. Vance International, N.D.Cal, 6/3/09, Judge Chen ruled that the employee had raised triable issues of fact as to whether his termination was motivated by bias as opposed to performance factors. Among other things, the company argued that the employee had poor personal hygiene habits and had to be counseled about his offensive body odor. The employee countered with his own statement that he did not have a body odor problem and that a female coworker had actually complimented him on his choice of cologne. The judge ruled that “there is adequate evidence to raise a disputed issue of fact” on the question of the termination. The court did, however, dismiss the employee's harassment claim, finding insufficient evidence of a “hostile environment.”