Eleventh Circuit Acknowledges Bananas as Racist Symbol in Employment Case
In a unanimous opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned the dismissal of an employment discrimination case involving an African-American employee whose truck was littered with banana peels while parked on company property.
The plaintiff started working for UPS Ground Freight in 2007 and resigned about a year later. He then filed a discrimination lawsuit, alleging he had suffered mental anguish because of discriminatory activity by his co-workers, whom he alleged had placed bananas and banana peels on his truck while it was parked at a UPS service center near his home.
In its defense, the company argued that there was nothing inherently racist about a banana peel. However, the court noted that the employee found bananas or peels on his truck on several different occasions, and always in the same places on the truck. No fruit or trash other than bananas was found on the employee's truck, and no bananas were found on other vehicles in the parking lot.
According to the court, these facts supported an inference that the bananas were a racist symbol, because of the widely held belief that bananas are a favorite food of monkeys. The Eleventh Circuit and other federal appeals courts have previously acknowledged that references to monkeys can support a federal claim for race discrimination by an African-American claimant.
The employee alleged that the company had fostered a hostile work environment because of seven separate incidents, four that took place in two weeks, just before he resigned. He had complained about the incidents to his manager, who urged him not to resign. The company alleged that it had promptly addressed the complaints, but the lower court's opinion did not address the company's efforts.Categories: Discrimination & Harassment Compliance
Tags: Preventing Discrimination and Harassment