A recent case out of the seventh circuit found that a woman who disclosed
to her psychiatrist that she was having thoughts about killing her supervisor
can proceed with race and sex discrimination claims, along with retaliation
claims under Title VII.
If you believe you may have been subject to discrimination at work, it
is important to speak to an experiencedGeorgia employment discrimination law firm.
Coleman v. Donahoe, a female postal employee with fired after she told her psychiatrist about
violent thoughts she had concerning her supervisor, including killing
him. Denise Coleman was hired in 1974 as a mail-processing clerk, and
had a good employment record up until January 2005 when the postal service
hired a new supervisor. Within a few months after the new supervisor began
working, Coleman sent emails to the head of the postal facility alleging
sex discrimination and threatening to file an Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) charge.
When Coleman subsequently required surgery and requested sick leave, she
was treated to harsh working conditions and asked to perform work that
would worsen her condition, such as moving heavy boxes and punching a
time clock located outside her stair-climbing range. After Coleman went
on leave without punching the clock, her supervisor issued an AWOL notice.
Coleman then filed for pre-complaint counseling with the EEOC, identifying
her supervisor as subjecting her to discrimination.
While in counseling for depression, anxiety and insomnia, Coleman revealed
to her psychiatrist that she had both suicidal and homicidal thoughts,
including thoughts of killing her supervisor. After treatment ended, Coleman’s
psychiatrist informed her supervisor about her homicidal thoughts. Coleman
was then immediately terminated by the postal service citing a “no
tolerance” policy for work place violence.
In many sex discrimination cases an individual must show that other employees
who are “similarly situated” received better treatment that
the person complaining of employment discrimination.
Here, as a comparison or others receiving better treatment, Coleman cited
an instance where two white males restrained a black man while another
white employee threatened him with a knife. The men were suspended for
a week, but were not fired.
The court determined that while the employee examples were not “identical
comparators,” this standard might be “insurmountable.”
Instead whether an individual is “similarly situated” may
be determined on a case-by-case basis. Here, the workers who received
better treatment (1) dealt with the same supervisor, (2) were subject
to the same standards and (3) engaged in similar conduct of comparable
As a result, Coleman was allowed to proceed with her claim. This case is
important because the Court advocated using a more flexible analysis to
determine who may be similarly situated.
For more information about this case or if you believe you have been subjected
to sex discrimination, contact the dedicated
employment discrimination attorneys in Atlanta at The Buckley Law Firm, LLC, P.C. for a confidential consultation.