It is Legal to Terminate an Employee Based on the Employee’s Real or Perceived Racism?
Judge Denise Cote, of the Southern District of New York, recently held in Olsson v. Wenner Media that it is not illegal to terminate an employee based upon that employee’s real or perceived discriminatory actions.
In the case, Olsson argued that his participation in a racially motivated act, and/or his participation as the subject of an investigation related to racially motivated activity, protected him under Title VII of new York State Law from being terminated for the racially motivated act. The court disagreed, stating that this did not qualify Olsson to be part of a “protected class” that the act would serve.
Olsson, who claims he was terminated in 2009 because his employer suspected he was involved in a racially motivated work incident in 1986, would have had to pursue his claims under a defamation theory. However, to do so he would have had to allege all the elements of defamation, including a willful intent to mislead, which he failed to do in this action.