Madison - St. Clair Record

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Former employee fails to provide evidence for reverse discrimination in case against assisted living facility

By Tricia Erickson | Apr 17, 2017

EAST ST. LOUIS — The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois recently granted an assisted living facility's motion for a summary judgment in a “reverse” discrimination termination case.

Fifth Season filed a motion for summary judgment after a former employee filed suit for wrongful termination.

Nicholle Williford, a white Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) supervisor, filed suit against Fifth Season in January 2016 claiming she was wrongfully terminated due to racial discrimination.

Williford alleged that her termination was reverse discrimination because she was fired after an African-American coworker complained of harassment and Fifth Season did not want to risk a harassment complaint from an African-American employee against a white supervisor.

On March 27, Judge David R. Herndon ruled in favor of Fifth Season holding that Williford did not provide enough evidence to support her claims of reverse discrimination.

Williford claimed that if she had been African-American or if the coworker making the complaint had also been white, then she would not have been terminated.

However, Fifth Season said Williford did not meet the requirements of a prima facie case of reverse racial discrimination by “(1) failure to specify circumstances that infer a reason to invidiously discriminate against whites; and, (2) failure to proffer evidence that demonstrates being treated less favorably than other non-white CNA Supervisors,” according to the order.

The court agreed with Fifth Season, citing Formella, 817 F.3d and the four requirements to meet indirect evidence of discriminatory intent. The court granted the summary judgment, saying it found no direct or indirect evidence of discriminatory intent.

Herndon wrote that “[t]he proffered evidence and deposition testimony demonstrate Fifth Season’s strong response to Williford’s troublesome conduct, and their belief that—after being warned about harassing subordinates—she should be terminated.”

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois