Employment Practices
Risk Management Association

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Is Failure To Provide An Office Racial Discrimination? You Make The Call

A former Marriott sales executive sued the employer, alleging unlawful race discrimination, unlawful race harassment, failure to prevent race discrimination, and harassment and retaliation for opposing forbidden practices.

The man, a 20-year salesperson, who joined the company to sell timeshares in 2017, alleges he was forced to work in a converted storage closet. He alleges some of his coworkers wondered if this was racially-motivated.

According to the plaintiff, this action made him so anxious he took medical leave and had to resign. Ashleigh Atwell "Former Marriott Sales Exec Sues For Racial Discrimination, Claims He Was Forced To Dance And Compared To Buckwheat" blavity.com (Dec. 26, 2018).

So, the question for our readers is: Standing alone, would the failure to provide an office be racial discrimination?

Please let us know what you think in the comment section or take the poll. Here are some opinions of some of the McCalmon editorial staff:

Jack McCalmon, Esq.

It is important to note that the above is only one side of the story put in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. With that in mind, we have the following… a 20-year sales veteran, black, male, new employee who was given a small office, perhaps a converted closet.

He is bringing his claim as an individual and not as a member of a class; with zero reference to how other minority employees were being treated in the organization. Importantly, the defendant was a recent hire. One can assume safely that a racist organization would not hire a minority. So individuals (versus the organization) are the source of the discrimination, if true.

Making a person work in a converted closet because he or she is a minority is discrimination.

However, there could be other reasons why the plaintiff was provided a small office.

Perhaps the sales veteran was given the smallest office because he was the most recent hire? Or what if the offices were being renovated and he was there temporarily? Finally, what if a recruiter promised the sales person something he could not deliver, like an office, when none was available, so local management cleaned out a closet to accommodate?

No one will know the right answer until the employer provides an explanation.

Leslie Zieren, Esq.

Standing alone, the size, configuration, or amenities of an office may or may not be racial discrimination depending upon several factors.

You can provide a comment on what you would do or answer our poll. Please note any comments provided may be shared with others.  

Finally, your opinion is important to us. Please complete the opinion survey:
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