Kirkland v. Department of Social Services
Absent other evidence of discrimination, a decision maker's stray remark may be insufficient to establish discrimination on the basis of race. In February 2006, the Department of Social Services hired the plaintiff, Chrisdena Kirkland, and she underwent 21 days of training. In March, Kirkland requested Family and Medical Leave Act leave, because she had a blood clot. Although her request was denied, because Kirkland had not worked enough hours, Kirkland was allowed to go to doctor's appointments. Kirkland took an unpaid pregnancy disability leave between July and December 2006. In August 2006, she received a rating of "unsatisfactory" on a performance appraisal. A supervisor claimed that her work quantity was below average and that her work quality was often unacceptable. When Kirkland returned to work in December, she was required to take the training session for new workers again. In April 2007, Kirkland received a written warning for tardiness. In May, Kirkland's request for overtime was denied, and she was asked to take down a religious message that she posted in her cubicle. Kirkland, who is African-American, filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, alleging discrimination on the basis of race. Kirkland received another rating of "unsatisfactory" on an employment evaluation, because work quality remained inconsistent and quantity was low. In August 2007, Kirkland was discharged and sued the department. To prevail on discrimination, the plaintiff must prove: 1.) she belongs to a protected class; 2.) she performed satisfactorily; and 3.) she suffered an adverse employment action in circumstances that led to an inference of illegal discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and race. The court assumed that Kirkland established a prima facie case. The defendant employer provided a legitimate, nondiscriminatory, business rationale, that Kirkland's work was unsatisfactory. Kirkland failed to prove this constituted a pretext for discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or race. Although a supervisor allegedly asked Kirkland not to pick up any "bad habits" when she observed Kirkland talking to other minority workers, stray remarks are insufficient to prove race discrimination. The court granted the defendant employer's motion for summary judgment.