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WASHINGTONThe U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed an employment discrimination case that asked when an employer can be held liable for subordinate manager's alleged racial bias in firing an employee.
The April 12 dismissal of BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Los Angeles vs. the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission came less than a week before the high court was scheduled to hear oral arguments. BCI requested the dismissal, according to the EEOC.
"The Supreme Court dismissed the case at the request of the petitioner, BCI," said the EEOC's general counsel's office in a statement. "The motion represented the unilateral decision of the petitioner and does not involve any settlement or any agreement between the parties. We expect that the case will be remanded to the district court in New Mexico for further proceedings, consistent with" the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision.
An spokesman for BCI declined to comment on the case, as it is back in litigation.
The case involved Stephen Peters, a black employee of BCI who had refused to work overtime when ill (BI, Jan. 15). His immediate supervisor, who allegedly had made racially disparaging remarks, asked a human resources manager hundreds of miles away how to resolve the situation. The HR manager, who had never met Mr. Peters and did not know his race, approved the termination without investigating the situation on her own, relying instead on the immediate supervisor's comments, according to court records.
Mr. Peters filed a complaint under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A district court dismissed the case, but it was reinstated by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year, whose decision hinted that employers could protect themselves by vigorously investigating such situations.