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Jun 2012

Jack Coakley secured the dismissal of race discrimination and harassment claims filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination by a former employee of an agency that provided residential, vocational and other supportive services to veterans of the United States Armed Forces.  The Complainant’s employment was terminated after he was absent for work without permission six out of seven consecutive work-days.  The Complainant alleged that he was terminated because of his race and that he had been subjected to harassment due to his race by a non-supervisory co-worker.  Jack Coakley presented evidence, however, that, prior to working for the agency, the Complainant was a client of the agency and was hired based upon the recommendation of the very same agency employee whom the Complainant later accused of harassment.  Evidence was also presented that, prior to the incidents that resulted in the Complainant’s termination, the Complainant had been involved in instances of absenteeism and publicly arguing with coworkers.  The Complainant’s employer, however, did not terminate the Complainant following these earlier instances of misconduct, but, instead, attempted to address these issues with reprimands.  These reprimands, unfortunately, did not succeed in preventing subsequent misconduct by the Complainant.  Jack Coakley argued that the agency’s initial use of sanctions less severe than termination demonstrated the absence of a discriminatory animus on the part of the agency.  Additionally, with respect to the claim of retaliation, the agency had documented not only the Complainant’s negative interactions with his coworker/alleged harasser, but also the fact that both the Complainant and the coworker were told to stay away from the other.  This reasonable and even-handed approach to what appeared (to the agency) to be personal disagreements unrelated to race between coworkers further evidenced a lack of discriminatory intent on the part of the agency.  After thoroughly investigating the allegations, the MCAD made lack of probable cause findings with respect to all of the Complainant’s claims and the case was dismissed.

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