Friday, October 2, 2015

Federal Court Rejects Sheriff Deputy’s Title VII Race Discrimination Case

Recently, in Hardin v. Marion County Sheriff's Department, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Eric Hardin’s Title VII retaliation claim. The unanimous panel found that “no reasonable jury” could find that the investigation which led to Eric Hardin’s firing was a pretext.  

Eric Hardin filed a federal lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after he was terminated for stealing $100 from a person he arrested. Hardin contended that the real reason he was fired was because he testified on behalf of African American police officers in a race discrimination investigation. 

However, the 7th Circuit found no evidence to support Hardin’s claim that the internal investigation was a “sham” designed to give the Department grounds to end his employment. Instead, the Court found that the investigation at issue was thorough and transparent noting that the investigators interviewed each and every person involved in the incident (14 in all), reviewed surveillance videos and radio traffic, and they explained their grounds for eliminating suspects other than Hardin. 

The Court found no evidence that any of the investigators harbored “retaliatory animus.”  In the end, Hardin’s failure to identify “weaknesses, implausibilities and inconsistencies” in the investigation report that would lead a reasonable person to find it “unworthy of credence” was fatal to his case. In the end, Harden had too little evidence to support a Title VII retaliation claim.