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Sex discrimination suit against jewelry store chain reinstated

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A federal appeals court Tuesday reinstated a sex discrimination case filed by a former Zale Corp. employee on the basis that the supervisor who decided to fire her had also allegedly made discriminatory comments to her.

Donna Morrow was hired as a store manager at a Zale Outlet store in North Little Rock, Arkansas, operated by Irving, Texas-based jewelry retailer Zale in February 2007, according to court papers in Donna Morrow vs. Zale Corp.

Ms. Morrow was terminated by the company in February 2013 for allegedly sending a racist email to a co-worker and for her unauthorized use of her mother’s credit account, according to court papers in the case.

She filed suit against Zale in U.S. District Court in Little Rock in December 2013 charging gender discrimination. The court granted Zale summary judgment dismissing the case in May 2015, concluding that the retailer had shown that there were “legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons offered by Zale” for her termination.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in St. Louis unanimously reinstated the case in Tuesday’s ruling. Her district manager, John Daugherty, who had terminated her, had allegedly told Ms. Morrow earlier she should step down because she was “a female” and a “single mom,” that it was “a man’s world” and that she needed to “man up,” said the ruling.

“Because we construe such comments, if made by a decision-maker, as direct evidence of discriminatory animus, we further conclude … Ms. Morrow may be entitled to some of the remedies she sought in her complaint and that summary judgment was inappropriately granted,” said the ruling, in remanding the case for further proceedings.