Two cocktail waitresses at a casino will now be able to take their claims to trial, according to the federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The plaintiffs in this case, Stacy Alexander and Kim Rogers, are both African-American females, and were both long time cocktail waitresses at the Casino Queen in Illinois. They filed a racial discrimination claim against their former employer for various forms of discrimination they state they suffered between October 2007 and July 2010.
Three Types of Discrimination
The plaintiffs asserted that they suffered three main forms of racial discrimination during that nearly three year period of time.
1. Job assignment—The plaintiffs stated that they received less desirable floor assignments than the white cocktail waitresses and, therefore, made significantly less money on some workdays. Each
waitress earned approximately $60 per day in salary, but supplemented this pay with anywhere from $40 to $160 per day in tips. Customers in the penny slots section were notorious for tipping
less, while the waitresses assigned to the high roller section regularly earned more tips. While floor assignments were supposed to be determined by seniority, the plaintiffs claim they were routinely reassigned to the lower paying sections of the casino, while the white waitresses were reassigned to the high roller sections.
2. Discipline—The plaintiffs claim they were both disciplined more strictly than their white co-workers. Specifically, one of the plaintiffs was written up even though she arrived to work on time. She later arrived one minute late and was suspended for a day due to three alleged tardies. On the other hand, a white cocktail waitress was supposedly tardy 42 times in 11 months and was not fired, though policy stated termination would result after nine tardies in a 12 month period.
3. Privileges—The plaintiffs claim that managers regularly approved vacation and personal days for white waitresses, but regularly denied their own requests without providing an explanation. One stated she was denied a day off to attend an aunt’s funeral, while a white waitress had a day off approved after a relative had a suicide scare. The district court found the plaintiffs did not sufficiently prove that they suffered adverse employment actions. However, the Court of Appeals disagreed. Instead, the Court found that because the job reassignment seriously affected the amount of income they earned, it could constitute adverse employment action. Furthermore, the manager’s race-neutral reasoning for the floor assignments was arguably pretextual and not credible.
Therefore, the Court decided a jury should hear the case and the plaintiffs may proceed to trial.
If you have suffered any type of racial discrimination or other unlawful employment actions, you should stand up for your rights. Contact the experienced business law and employment attorneys at HKM today for help.