When an Employee Tosses Banana Peels and Claims Discrimination

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By Eric B. Meyer

Where do I find these cases I write about, you ask? I ain’t telling.

But seriously, this case (Ennis v. Del. Transit. Corp.) isn’t so much about the particular facts …

  • White employee tosses banana peels at work.
  • Black employees complain of racism.
  • Investigation ensues.
  • White employee is forced to resign,

… as it is about making sure that all involved know why an employee is being fired, and can articulate those reasons consistently.

Is it a pretext for discrimination?

You see, a plaintiff alleging discrimination (on the basis of any protected class — including white male), generally needs to show that the employer’s reason for whatever adverse employment action it took is a mere pretext for discrimination.

And how does a plaintiff do this? By pointing to weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistencies, incoherencies, or contradictions in the employer’s reasons for taking whatever action it did.

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And how did the white banana-peel-tossing plaintiff do this here?

  • One of the employees who complained to management that tossing banana peels was a racist gesture, testified that he never called the plaintiff out as a racist. Rather, he told the plaintiff that the discarded banana peels were an eyesore.
  • Another employee testified that she thought that the incident was racist because the employee who complained thought it was racist. But, that first employee told the plaintiff that the peels were an eyesore, so…
  • Then you have two people identified as the decision makers, one of whom testified that he was not the decision maker. Rather, someone else was the decision maker.
  • And, someone else adamantly testified during his deposition that he opposed plaintiff’s termination.
  • Finally, there was the mixed testimony about whether the plaintiff’s race played any role in his termination.

Employer takeaway?

Hey readers, employment decisions don’t have to be unanimous. Just make sure that everyone involved knows their role, understands the reason(s) for the decision, and can articulate them clearly and consistently.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.


64 Comments on “When an Employee Tosses Banana Peels and Claims Discrimination

    1. You are right Huge. I’m black and this story is ridiculous. Eating a banana around black people is not racist. Will it be racist too if a black person eats bananas around another black?

    2. Wow huge, your beautiful. Come ride on the back of my motorcycle as you see me riding in my profile picture here.

  1. Just dem peeps keepin’ it rillz!! Dey be showin us how dey want to be treated da same!! WOW!!!!!!

  2. If someone tosses a banana peel at you simply go to them whoop their A#$%^ stick the race card up their A@#$% and go back to work .

  3. I’ve seen the racist baiting happen and it works every time. I left a table of coworkers at break time when the discussion came around to a movie with a lot of light hearted mild racial jokes that ran both ways.
    A black woman on the job for less than a year said a line from the movie and everyone laughed. A white coworker repeated the exact same line in reference to another part of the movie (no negative expressions involved at all). The black woman who did the first quote complained of racism. The white worker was on the job for 10+ years and only her stellar record saved her job. She wasn’t fired but was reduced in seniority and pay grade to a brand new employee.
    The black woman then applied for the open senior position but thankfully was turned down due to her inexperience.
    Why should an equal participation in a break time discussion where 2 coworkers discuss the same movie and repeat the same movie quote result in one worker only losing thousands of dollars a year and the other getting off without issue because they are black? That is “white privilege” in America today.

      1. Actually, where I work, an employee once exclaimed, “that ‘redneck’ needs to be fired (for being insensitive)”. He was. I suppose the ‘joke’ is that the word ‘redneck’ is a naked racial slur and calling someone a ‘redneck’ is about as close as you can get to using the ‘n’ word. I believe the ‘n’ word is it’s nearest corollary, anyway.

        1. The term redneck is chiefly used for a rural poor white person of the Southern United States. It can be a derogatory slang term similar in meaning to cracker (especially regarding Georgia and Florida), hillbilly (especially regarding Appalachia and the Ozarks), and white trash (but without the last term’s suggestions of immorality).

          By 1975 the term had expanded in meaning beyond the poor Southerner to refer to “a bigoted and conventional person, a loutish ultra-conservative.” It is often used to attack white Southern conservatives. The term is also used broadly to degrade working class and rural whites that are perceived by urban progressives to be insufficiently liberal. At the same time, some white Southerners have reclaimed the word, using it with pride and defiance as a self-identifier.

          The term also characterized farmers having a red neck caused by sunburn from hours working in the fields. A citation from 1893 provides a definition as “poorer inhabitants of the rural districts…men who work in the field, as a matter of course, generally have their skin stained red and burnt by the sun, and especially is this true of the back of their necks”.

          In other words, the term has absolutely nothing to do with anyone other than a white person, let alone being a racial slur unless referring to a white person–imagine that!

          1. You forgot to mention that redneck also comes from the bandana that Confederate Soldiers wore around their necks.

  4. Or maybe you 3 idiots are too self-absorbed and clueless to recognize that these aren’t independent actions and usually come with dumb comments.
    Huge, if you throw a banana peel at a Black person, just like if you throw a box of spaghetti at an Italian person and say something derogatory, it could b deemed racist. you aren’t that dense, are you?
    Maybe so.

    1. No evidence is presented that any such thing happened, unless the guy threw a peel said a racist comment and the person’s response was that is an eyesore.

    2. If you actually read the court documents instead of assuming things you would see that no one threw banana peels at anyone. He did not throw the peels in the trash because they attracted bugs, he STOPPED throwing the peels in the grass outside the building when asked to by a black employee, and he was fired because some random black employees were randomly upset when they thought the banana peels they found on top of the bus he was working on were a racial gesture. Read, be informed rather, don’t be ignorant.

  5. Huh? I am very, very confused…..

    If the guy who was terminated was just tossing his banana peels away, he wasn’t being “racist”, he was just being messy. He could have wrapped them in a plastic bag before throwing them in the trash, or made management aware of the bug problem so that they would put lids on the trash cans. The first witness stated that he never called the guy out as being racist, but rather as creating an “eyesore”.

    The man had an excellent performance record and he obviously did NOT act with malicious intent. If the company had ANY common sense whatsoever, this wouldn’t (shouldn’t) have been an issue. The idiots who filed a complaint of racism against this man need to grow up and stop causing drama – deal with the REAL incidents of racism and stop crying wolf over every little perceived slight.

    This is ridiculous.

    1. As a former janitor, banana peels thrown in the employees trash can under their desk create some of the stinkiest garbage. There’s a good chance you may have to replace the can liner and not just dump out the contents out and replace the can with liner. What this has to do with the story, I have no idea.

    2. Tay, who wraps the banana peel in plastic before throwing it away? Never heard of it until today. I eat an apple I throw away the core. I eat a banana I throw away what is left. Where is the discrimination part? This world is becoming more ridiculous by the second…

  6. The employee how threw the banana should sue the employer. That employee has rights, too and should be granted due process.

  7. I remember my car needed a master cylinder, a slave cylinder(clutch), and a timing chain. Could you imagine telling a Black he needed a master, slave and chain. Not good.

  8. Sad, someone lost their job of 20 years, over this? He has a family to support. If you read the court documents, the mangers are lying!! You can definetly see one manager is behind the whole issue, and she is lying to cover her ass, because she is the next to get fired!!!

    1. if you catch blacks eating chicken and watermelon and not disposing of them properly you should sue..

  9. banana’s have been a joke for a long time,black racism needs to be shown up for what it is..

  10. Since there was never any evidence that “racism” was involved, the black employee should have been fired for creating a hostile working environment for the white employee.

  11. Today I was at a talent show at my university ( I’m a white guy, so some people are automatically going to tune out and think I’m a racist ), which is majority Hispanics, listening to people sing and singing along. I heard a bunch of African American females making fun of Hispanic names, yelling “carlitos! hahaha juan! haahaha pablito!” so on and so forth. Then a dark man walked up and they were making fun of him for being named “Carlos”, saying stuff like “what nigga is named carlos?!?!! HAHAHA I AINT NEVER MET A BLACK PERSON NAMED CARLOS, HAHAHA WHAT THE F IS WRONG WITH YOU!?” Seeing as these buffoons probably have never heard of Dominican people, they didn’t realize how rude they were being to this man. Then, my friend sitting next to me was smoking a cigarette, one of the black girls walked up and asked for a light, and then looked at me and said “I seen you singing along to that song a while ago white boy!” I nodded and as she walked away just shook my head. The level of accepted racism from blacks in this country is ridiculous, yet if you are white and say ANYTHING about ANYBODY, you are considered an evil racist. Was I offended by her calling me white boy? No, because I don’t truly believe she meant it in a hateful way. However, even when white people are joking about other races, its taken as hatred. Didn’t mean to ramble, I don’t care about my grammar its been a long day, I’m just frustrated by this hypocrisy

    1. It’s the history. White people have been calling people names and killing people if you had anything to say about it for hundreds of years. Certain things coming out a white persons mouth can be a lot more offensive to some people because of the history. Whites called Asians names like jap, slanty eyes, gook and other offensive names. Whites called jews things like kik and jew boy. Whites have called blacks names like nigger, spook, boy. Whites have called italians names like wop and guinia. Whites have called latinos names like spik, illegals, wetbacks. Whites called the irish trash and green niggers. Whites had names for native americans like indian, redskins, etc. The list goes on and on. The other thing whites did was kill off large amounts of all these races too. Being called a racist name is bad, but being called a racist name by somebody whos family may have killed or owned some of your family is a whole lot worse.

      1. No. That is utterly ridiculous. The entire world has been conquered and enslaved at one point or another. Why are the Apache in the southwest US? Because the Comanche drove them off their lands. Just a small example. No one gets to act like an idiot because someone else’s ancestors conquered them, enslaved them or called them a name. In every instance you mentioned, those ethnicities called each other those exact same racial slurs. Racist name-calling is hardly a “whites only” thing. Your argument is pathetic.

      2. Might not want to say something like “It’s the history” when you have a stunning ignorance regarding history. Humans have been doing terrible things to humans for hundreds of years. Yellow people have enslaved and slaughtered Eastern Europeans and Arabs. There’s also the whole Imperial Japan thing, which we like to ignore (Social Justice Warriors would like to pretend World War II only had Italy and Germany as the bad guys). Brown people slaughtered other brown people (Aztecs). Blacks enslaved other blacks, before selling them to whites.

      3. Look at you playing the victim rather than see it from both sides, this is why African americans are so ignorant. they see everything white people do as evil, and everything they do as innocent. You really think whites are the only ones who have enslaved people or are guilty of racial discrimination? shows how educated you are, but I refuse to argue with todays African americans, there really is no point

    2. American blacks are the most immature, racist people. If anyone is racist it is them. Not even Decent hard working educated DARK Hispanics LIKE THE AMERICAN BLACK. I am of Hispanic ancestry, and they thought I was white, since I am a fair skinned NY born Hispanic. I cannot believe that this happened at a university?? Sounds like junior or High School. I graduated from Fordham University, few pavement apes there. Names? THese animals have names like Shanicua, takika, nakisha, Sharanda, Latifah. With GHETTO names like this, imagine the parents who NAMED them. Garbage, transfer out of there buddy. What University is that, or State?

  12. I’m white and find it racist when black people eat crackers next to me. lol… people way to sensitive these days.

  13. It would be nice to get to equity and fairness as legal goals instead of political correctness, fear, and ancestral punishment. Automatically assuming a person is engaging in a behavior out of negative intent without qualifying that assumption with supporting facts is prejudicial. If a black person in a hostile confrontation with an Asian co-worker throws rice at them it isn’t “racial” if the reason the rice was thrown because not to make a “racial” insult, it was only due to the fact that was what was available.

    In this case it does not appear as though there were backing statements of bias made by the accused, nothing was directed “at” the accuser, and even the accuser admitted that they were offended but did not believe there was an intent to offend by the accused. Plenty of people are still facing active, overt, intentional sexism, racism, phobias, and bias in the workplace. These kinds of cases cheapen what everyone else goes through and has been through. People who are offended by everything and eternal victims are not productive or valuable team members in any life aspect. Our national identity was built on freedom of expression, not freedom from offence.

  14. So what they are saying is that it is easier for the cowardly HR Department to fire the model white employee over nothing than to stand up for what is right.

  15. white people have didly to cry about, you’ve oppressed Black people, including right now for well over 500 years and got away with it. not you are complaining about Black people claiming that we are oppressed??? so shut up.

    1. That’s right, when you can’t formulate a logical argument, bring race into it. No person alive today, white or black, knows anything about slavery or oppression.
      “not you are complaining about Black people claiming that we are oppressed.” That’s a very articulate sentence. Also, FYI, you are supposed to capitalize the first letter of a new sentence.
      Go repeat the third grade and then we’ll talk.

    2. Heh, I can’t tell if that’s a parody, or the writing of a genuine social justice warrior. I got a good laugh, intentional satire or not.

  16. I’m lost. Non of this made any sense.. But what I do see is an example of “the new race card”. Caucasians just accusing of reverse discrimination when blacks feel like the have dealt with this mess for much longer.

    Its called “waling a mile in someone else s shoes” folks.

    Hang on cause the ride gets bumpier before it ends.

    1. There is no such thing as reverse discrimination. If you are of one segment and do something against another segment, solely because they are part of that group, then it is discrimination. Minorities can be racist just as much as non-minorities. Women can be sexist against men. In your case, though, people just don’t like you because you are f’cking stupid.

      1. There is reverse discrimination. Definition: the unfair treatment of members of majority groups resulting from preferential policies, as in college admissions or employment, intended to remedy earlier discrimination against minorities. I am a white female and is dealing with it right now.

        1. that is ignorant, just call it discrimination. That’s like when people say reverse racism, its just racism!!!!

  17. …I feel like this article was really poorly written. I finished reading it and I still don’t have a clear idea what exactly happened. When you say the employee was “tossing” bananas, what does that mean? If it’s just throwing them in the trash, then yeah, it seems ridiculous to call that racist. But if, as the photo accompanying the story suggests, the employee was throwing them at a black coworker, or on the ground in front of a black coworker, then yeah, that is definitely seen as racist. People have thrown bananas at black soccer players at games to insult them for their race. It’s a pretty common way of insulting a black person.

  18. This is stupid, it’s like saying no one can eat beans and rice around me because I am of Hispanic ancestry. American blacks have become stupid.

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