7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Title VII Reverse Discrimination Lawsuit

On November 15, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a Title VII reverse race discrimination lawsuit filed by a civil servant against his former employer, the Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County, Illinois.  Golla v. Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County, Illinois, et al., No. 15-2524 (7th Cir.  11/15/2017).  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant engaged in intentional reverse racial discrimination by paying an African-American co-worker a significantly higher salary than him, a Caucasian, even though they worked in the same department performing the same duties under essentially the same title.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of race with respect to compensation.  However, the 7th Circuit found that the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that he received lower pay than his co-worker because of his race.  He presented no evidence, beyond the fact that he is white and his co-worker is black, to demonstrate that race contributed to disparity in their pay.  Moreover, the plaintiff's pay was established in 1996 pursuant to a settlement agreement, while the co-worker's pay grade was established in 1998 when he held a different position.  When they were placed in the same department in 2004 and 2005, they maintained their previously established pay grades from years ago.  The plaintiff also presented no evidence that the alleged discriminator was a decision-maker with respect to employee compensation.  The race-based comments that she allegedly made to the plaintiff did not support his claim because they were not made in regard to his compensation.  The plaintiff also failed to establish that his department engaged in a systemic pattern and practice of reverse discrimination.