Is it discrimination for an African American to be on light duty and be able to work, while a white on light duty gets sent home?

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Is it discrimination for an African American to be on light duty and be able to work, while a white on light duty gets sent home?

I was put on light duty by my doctor, and have missed several days of work (all excused by my doctor) and I’m about to have to have surgery. My boss sent me home twice. The first time he said, “(other employee) is on light duty through workman’s comp, this is just your thing”.The second time he said, “I have to send you home, I have nothing for you. I already have 1 guy on light duty and you don’t look good walking around here”. I am white, and the other employee on light duty is African American.

Asked on August 24, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Louisiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Illegal racially based employment discrimination occurs when an employee is treated differently due to his or her race. That does not mean that a white employee cannot be treated differently than a black employee, or vice versa--just that the employee's race cannot be the reason for the difference. If there is a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the difference, then there is no discrimination. So if there was only enough light duty work for one person, for example, and it was given to a black employee prior to you receiving your work restrictions, that may well not be discrimination; or it would not be discrimination if you and he have different restrictions, and his restrictions let him do some useful work at this employer, while your restrictions do not.


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