Diversity Investigations

Learning Outcomes

  • Analyze diversity controversies and investigations

Although there are many documents and pieces of legislation in place to protect people from harsh and unfair treatment, not everyone abides by those rules. In this section, we are going to discuss five different cases against employers for discriminatory practices against their employees. Hopefully, these cases will help shed some light on diversity issues that are still present in today’s society. Just as importantly, they will demonstrate how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and current legislation are working together to help foster diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Robert Braden vs. Lockheed Martin[1]

In 1995, Robert Braden’s employer of 11 years merged with Lockheed Martin, an aerospace and defense contractor. Braden continued to work for Lockheed Martin for over 15 years until he was laid off in 2012 at the age of 66. At the time he was laid off, Lockheed Martin did not give him any explanation for his termination. When Braden did some investigating, he found out that of the 110 employees that shared his same job title, four other employees were also laid off. All four employees were over fifty-years-old.

Braden then argued that he was compensated less than his counterparts due to his age. Braden then explained one of his supervisors gave him a low review score. When Braden asked why, his manager explained that upper management believed he had been with the company for too long. Braden then used his state’s anti-discrimination law in combination with the age discrimination portion of the Employment Act of 1967 to file a lawsuit against his previous employer. In order to win his case, Braden had to prove that he was let go for only his age and for no other reason. With the evidence presented, Braden won his case and was awarded $51 million in damages. Lockheed Martin now has one of the largest age discrimination verdicts ever awarded to a single plaintiff.

Butler vs. Home Depot, Inc.[2]

In 1996, Vicki Butler filed charges against Home Depot’s West Coast Division for discrimination based on gender, claiming that Home Depot’s hiring strategies, job assignments, compensation, and promotion opportunities were heavily based on gender. Butler said that Home Depot had no objective hiring processes in place and job assignments for men and women greatly differed. She claimed that women were primarily in cashier positions while men were in sales and management roles. Even worse, no pay scales were mandated to ensure equal compensation. Instead, pay was left up to the predominantly male management team.

This case was tried as a class action lawsuit and brought to court as a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The case was settled for $87.5 million and included a seven-year period in which Home Depot was responsible for making changes to their hiring and staffing practices. Home Depot also made a commitment to increase the number of women in management positions within the seven years following the settlement. Lastly, the two founders of Home Depot spoke out about their experience with the case and preached the importance of creating an all-inclusive work environment to help fight against discrimination.

EEOC vs. Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp.[3]

Robert Sanders was a new management trainee for Big 5 Sporting Goods store in Oak Harbor, Washington. Sanders was the only African-American employee at the location and was harassed and even received death threats from his trainers. Sanders was called names like “spook” and “King Kong” and fellow employees told him he had the “face of a janitor.” In addition, assistant managers allegedly told him they would “lynch” him or “hang” him if he called in again. They also offered to help him kill himself whenever he was ready to commit suicide. Sanders began to miss work from the stress of the harassment and was eventually terminated by Big 5.

After unsuccessfully attempting to settle outside of court, Sanders brought Big 5 to court with the help of the EEOC. The EEOC argued that Big 5 had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Sanders was awarded $165,000 for lost wages and damages. Big 5 was required to meet additional requirements including training the entire staff on how to prevent, report, and correct workplace racial harassment.

EEOC vs. Scott Medical Health Center[4]

EEOC vs. Scott Medical Health Center was one of the first sexual orientation discrimination lawsuits filed by the EEOC. Dale Massaro was a telemarketer for Scott Medical and claimed he was harassed because of his sexual orientation. His supervisor used derogatory comments towards Massaro and asked inappropriate questions about his personal relationships. Massaro reported the harassment to Scott Medical’s CEO and was told that his manager was just performing his job functions.

The EEOC helped Massaro sue Scott Medical claiming that they had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This was one of the first cases where the federal court system recognized sexual orientation as a part of gender discrimination.

PRactice Question

EEOC vs. AbercromBie & Fitch

In 2008, Samantha Elauf applied for a job with Abercrombie & Fitch. Elauf was a practicing Muslim and wore a hijab on a daily basis and to her interview. She claimed that Abercrombie & Fitch did not hire her because her religious practices did not fit with their dress code requirements. Elauf argued that Abercrombie’s unwillingness to hire her and make dress code accommodations for her religious beliefs was a direct violation of Title VII’s prohibition against religious discrimination.

The verdict went back and forth over the next 7 years. In the initial trial, the jury voted in favor of Elauf. However, Abercrombie & Fitch appealed and the US Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the company’s favor. Finally, in June of 2015, the Supreme Court overturned the Circuit Court’s decision and awarded Elauf with monetary damages totaling $25,670. The Supreme Court explained that if the company had even a hunch that her head cover was for religious purposes, they were guilty of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


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  1. "Employee Wins Massive Age Discrimination Lawsuit Against Lockheed Martin." The Spiggle Law Firm. April 10, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://www.spigglelaw.com/employment-blog/employee-wins-massive-age-discrimination-lawsuit-lockheed-martin/.
  2. Butler vs. Home Depot, Inc. (United States District Court, N.D. California. January 25, 1996);"Butler v. Home Depot, Inc." Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://gbdhlegal.com/cases/butler-v-home-depot/.
  3. "Big 5 To Pay $165,000 To Settle EEOC Race Discrimination Lawsuit." US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. September 18, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/9-18-18.cfm.
  4. Long, Daniel R. "EEOC Scores Victory in Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawsuit." Labor & Employment Law Perspectives. November 27, 2017. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://www.laboremploymentperspectives.com/2017/11/27/eeoc-scores-victory-in-sexual-orientation-discrimination-lawsuit/.