Employee’s Objection to “Slave Driver” Screensaver Held Sufficient to Support Retaliation Claim.

May 12th, 2008

The plaintiff in this case was a black female who was assigned to work under a Vietnamese female supervisor. Several years prior to the plaintiff’s arrival at the worksite, a black intern had placed a screensaver on the supervisor’s computer as a joke that depicted the words “Slave Driver” in flaming letters, superimposed with the supervisor’s face, and towering over three black male figures (one of whom was the intern) who were cowering and in obvious distress at the hands of the “Slave Driver.” Upon her arrival at the worksite, Plaintiff on several occasions told her supervisor and others that she found the screensaver to be racially offensive due to its depiction of slavery (the screensaver was removed thereafter only because the supervisor received a new computer). Thereafter, Plaintiff claimed that her supervisor second-guessed and questioned everything she did and gave her unwarranted writeups. Plaintiff ultimately was terminated in a workforce downsizing seven months later. A federal judge in Alabama, in denying the Company’s motion for summary judgment, held that the Plaintiff made out a sufficient prima facie case of retaliation based on her opposition to the “appalling” screensaver. In addition, even though seven months elapsed between the complaints and her termination, the Judge stated there was a “chain of retaliatory treatment” that culminated in the discharge. Although the Company stated that Plaintiff had the least seniority, the evidence on this was disputed and the Company had not followed its own procedures. A reasonable jury, the Judge stated, could find a causal connection between the complaints and the discharge since there were inconsistencies in the Company’s explanation, requiring a jury trial to resolve the disputed facts. Odom v. Mobile Infirmary, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21369 (S.D. Ala. 2008).