S.C.: Court Dismisses Firefighter's Racial Discrimination Claim

By SHRM Online staff Feb 17, 2015

A court dismissed a firefighter’s racial discrimination claim, finding that all individuals competing for the same promotion through the same testing process are not similarly situated.

Arnold Scott sought recovery from his employer, the city of Columbia, for alleged racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Scotts claims focused on the citys failure to promote him to the position of battalion chief. Scott alleged this non-promotion was due, at least in part, to a discriminatory promotional testing scheme. Scott also alleged that he was subjected to retaliatory discipline after he made complaints about perceived discrimination. Finally, he alleged he was denied overtime pay to which he was entitled. The city filed for summary judgment.

The court granted the city’s motion for summary judgment on Scotts disparate treatment claim because he failed to present evidence that he was treated less favorably than any similarly situated employee outside his protected class with respect to the promotion process. Scott argued that he directly compared himself to the class of 2009. He claimed that white applicants who underwent similar testing conditions were promoted, but he was not.

However the court found that Scotts argument would not support a claim of discrimination because it would effectively eliminate the requirement for similarly situated comparators by assuming that all individuals vying for the same promotion through the same process are similarly situated. If this were enough, every denial of a promotion would support a prima facie case of discrimination so long as the individual promoted was from outside a protected class to which at least one individual who was not selected belonged, the court said. The argument also fails because it relies on allegations that “the class of 2009” and unidentified “white men” were treated differently than Scott without providing any specific details as to why either the group or individuals should be considered similarly situated or precisely how they were treated differently under the same or similar circumstances, according to the court.

The court dismissed Scott’s disparate impact claim because he failed to provide statistical evidence, instead relying on subjective and anecdotal evidence. It also dismissed Scott’s retaliation claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Finally, it dismissed Scott’s wage claim, noting that Scott failed to offer any argument to support his claim.

Scott v. City of Columbia, D. S.C., No. 3:13-426-CMC-PJG, (Jan. 20, 2015).

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