Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, October 17, 2005

Misdeal - Poker Dealer Gets Second Chance According to the 5th Circuit

The fact that "it is undisputed that Jones is a well qualified poker dealer, whose dealing skills are better than the average poker dealer in Tunica County, Mississippi," means a little more when you understand that Tunica County is the self proclaimed Casino Capital of the South. Ralph Jones claimed he was never hired for a full time position as a poker dealer at the Horseshoe Casino, notwithstanding he was hired temporarily for some high profile tournaments including the World Poker Open held there. According to Jones, it was because he was African American.

The District Court disagreed, granting summary judgment to the Casino, finding there was not direct evidence of discrimination since the testimony that was offered required too many inferences to conclude that there was a discriminatory motive and some of it had been recanted. The 5th Circuit was not so troubled:
Upon extensive review of the parties’ arguments and the record in this case, and mindful of the summary judgment standard, we find that Jones has demonstrated direct evidence of discrimination. Mims stated that she inquired why an African-American poker dealer was not hired and was told, by either Lambert or his assistant, that “they hired who they wanted to hire and there [sic] were not going to hire a black person unless there were extenuating circumstances.” She was then told by Lambert, or his assistant, that “good old white boys don’t want blacks touching their cards in their face.” Sam Thomas testified that in 1995, that Lambert told him that “maybe I’ve been told not to hire too many blacks in the poker room.” It is incontrovertible that Lambert made the hiring decisions at Horseshoe and Presley as his assistant would have provided input, therefore, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Jones, the aforementioned evidence proves, without inference or presumption, that race was a basis in employment decisions in the poker room at Horseshoe. The evidence need not show that race was the sole basis in order to constitute direct evidence.
Jones v. Robinson Property Group, L.P. (5th Cir. 10/11/05) [pdf].

Jones had complained to the H.R. Department of the Casino that he was not being hired because of his race, which led to a face to face confrontation with the hiring manager in the H.R. office, so the potential for a viable retaliation claim also existed. Unfortunately for Jones, his failure to bring it in a timely fashion doomed that claim. That decision of the district court was affirmed by the 5th Circuit.

Although the casino escaped the path of Hurricane Katrina, its luck ran out, at least for now with respect to Mr. Jones.

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