Expert: Burden on Veach to prove racially based firing


By Kevin Spradlin

Previous coverage
* Dec. 11 — Veach: I was fired because I’m white

Michael Veach, a former Hamlet Police Department detective who filed a lawsuit in Richmond County Superior Court alleging his 2012 firing was racially motivated, has an uphill climb to win his case.

Jeffrey Hirsch, professor UNC School of Law

Jeffrey Hirsch, professor
UNC School of Law

Veach is white. The case is against Marchell Adams-David and also names the city of Hamlet as defendant. In a complaint filed by attorney Michael C. Byrne, Veach alleges that former former City Manager Adams-David, who is black, engineered his termination of employment because of his race.

Last week, Adams-David called the suit “bogus” and the allegation of racially motivated employment termination “absolutely ludicrous.”

On Monday, a labor and race discrimination law expert said cases like the one Veach filed “are actually tough to win, probably tougher than most people realize.

Jeffrey Hirsch is a professor at University of North Carolina’s School of Law in Chapel Hill. Hirsch said the burden is on Veach to prove that Adams-David had a role in the hiring and that “even if he can show there’s some sort of racial animosity, he has to show she somehow effected the decision. He’s got some hoops to jump through.”

Hirsch said that if Veach is lucky, “there’s a smoking gun memo” or email that could strengthen Veach’s case, “but that’s rare.”

Instead, many such cases built on circumstantial evidence, Hirsch said, such as hiring statistics and comments from depositions that are likely to be taken over the next several weeks and months.

Beyond that, Hirsch said, Veach and his attorney have to prove that “whoever made the decision … made a decision that was based, at least in part, on his race. That’s where it can get tough.”

Veach is suing under North Carolina General Statute 143-422.2, the state’s equivalent of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. The U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Civil Rights allowed for what it calls “reverse” cases — those in which a member of the majority alleges discrimination by a member of the minority.

In successful reverse cases, it might seem the circumstances are much more — well, black and white. In the 1976 case McDonald v. Santa Fe Transportation Company, two white employees and one black employee were charged with stealing property from their employer, according to summary in the Office of Civil Rights website. The two white employees were fired while the black employee was retained. In the first big reverse discrimination case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Title VII is not limited to discrimination against minority persons, but includes discriminatory actions against majority persons as well.

In Hopwood v. Texas (1996), the Supreme Court struck down the race-conscious admissions program of the University of Texas Law School. The school used lower minimum criteria for African American and Mexican American candidates than for other candidates. The Supreme Court held that obtaining a racially diverse student body is not a compelling interest under the 14th Amendment.

Reverse discriminations aren’t an everyday occurence, Hirsch said.

“Usually when you’re arguing discrimination, you’re in the minority,” Hirsch said. “The courts are supposed to be a little more suspicious of reverse discrimination claims. They’re certainly not the norm. Factually speaking, usually discrimination runs the other way.”

Hirsch said an area for the plaintiff to focus on might be “who really makes the (staffing) decisions” with the city of Hamlet — the city manager, as Veach alleges in the suit or, as Adams-David said, department heads.

“It’s probably the police chief,” Hirsch said. “The question is whether there’s any influence” by the former city manager in such a decision.

The city might be able to show Veach, who was at the center of an SBI investigation for allegedly seizing motorists’ vehicles and scrapping them, was fired due to workplace misconduct.

“But,” Hirsch noted, if “Veach should also show that discrimination played a role … the magic phrase in the statue … if discrimination was a motivating factor — then the employer can still be liable.”

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  • Someone who doesnt know

    Reverse discrimination is not a rare occurrence. There is just too may things for us to be worried about, other than someone having a problem with the color of my skin.

    • Penny

      Not sure about reverse discrimination,,but it’s time white people stand up. Blacks are always playing the race card.

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