Court Rejects
Discrimination Claims of
Former Wal-Mart Employee
Based On Cuban National Origin

Legal Translation Services for
National Origin Discrimination Cases

Legal Interpreting Services for Discrimination Claims

There’s a growing demand for legal deposition interpreting services in employment discrimination cases.  In order successfully sue a former employer for discrimination and retaliation, a plaintiff must be prepared to present strong evidence in support of his or her discrimination claim to the court. As discussed in the following case, Padron v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Court No. 12-cv-08089, decided by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on March 31, 2017, a plaintiff cannot simply allege discrimination in a complaint and then fail to produce any evidence in support of such claims. In Padron, the plaintiff claimed that Wal-Mart, his former employer, discriminated against him due to his Cuban national origin. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that he was paid less and not given as much scheduling flexibility as his fellow non-Cuban employees because he is Cuban. He also claimed that he was harassed, subjected to slurs and graffiti, and that he was eventually discharged in retaliation for reporting the discrimination.

In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff, through his counsel, was required to file a response to Wal-Mart’s motion for summary judgment and Wal-Mart’s statement of undisputed facts but failed to do so. As a result, Wal-Mart’s statement of undisputed facts was deemed admitted by the court for purposes of ruling on Wal-Mart’s motion for summary judgment. The following is a summary of Wal-Mart’s statement of undisputed facts that the court deemed admitted:

According to Wal-Mart, the plaintiff first began working for Wal-Mart in 1998 as a truck unloader in receiving, and then moved to a cart pusher role in 2001. In 2005, he worked as an associate in inventory and continued in this position until he left the company in 2010. During his employment at Wal-Mart, wage increases were based on the employee’s performance rating during his or her annual review. Although the plaintiff claimed that his wages were less than the wages of the three non-Cuban employees who also worked in inventory, the plaintiff never saw their paychecks and did not know how much they were paid. With regard to his work schedule, when the plaintiff told an assistant manager that he wanted weekends off, that request was accommodated. The plaintiff also allegedly saw drawings in the store’s bathroom depicting boats and stick figures along with the words “Cuban” and “little fish.” When he complained about them, they were removed from the bathroom. Some of his co-workers laughed at him and made fun of him and asked whether he came to the U.S. by plane or raft. When other Cuban employees at the same store filed complaints with the EEOC, the plaintiff cooperated with the EEOC’s investigation of their complaints and spoke with a regional manager on several occasions about discrimination against Cubans.

Accordingly, plaintiff believes that he was retaliated against for his involvement in discussing discrimination at the store. At the end of his employment, the plaintiff requested and received two weeks off for medical leave. While he was on medical leave, the store managers learned from plaintiff’s wife, who also worked at the store, that he had found another job and would not be returning. Wal-Mart documented his separation as “voluntary” and noted that he was eligible for rehire. However, the plaintiff testified at his deposition that a store manager told him that he was not “at the level” of other employees and had 15 days to raise his performance and that when he tried to return to work, he was told not to punch in but to instead go and see this same store manager.

In reviewing the record, the court granted Wal-Mart’s motion for summary judgment. The court held that the plaintiff had failed to introduce any evidence demonstrating that non-Cuban employees who received better pay or treatment were similarly situated to him. The court noted that while Wal-Mart attributed the pay differences to the results of performance review, the plaintiff had failed to present any evidence to counter this non-discriminatory reason. The court noted that “if the defendant presents unrebutted evidence of a noninvidious reason for the adverse action, he is entitled to summary judgment.” Id, citing Stone v. City of Indianapolis Pub. Utilities Div., 281 F.3d 640, 644 (7th Cir. 2002.)

The court also rejected the plaintiff’s claims of retaliatory discharge. The court held that there was no evidence that the store manager acted in response to the plaintiff’s discrimination complaints or that he was even aware of them. The court noted that the plaintiff had testified that he answered questions about discrimination with the help of a Wal-Mart regional manager, who served as a Spanish to English interpreter, and that this took place more than a year before the alleged retaliation. In addition, there were several different store managers between the plaintiff’s reporting of discrimination and his separation from Wal-Mart.

Finally, the court rejected the plaintiff’s allegations of a hostile work environment. The court held that the plaintiff had been employed by Wal-Mart for 11 years and alleged only infrequent instances of harassment, none of which were supported by any evidence since the plaintiff had failed to respond to Wal-Mart’s statement of undisputed facts. The court held that “infrequent occurrences of non-severe harassment are an insufficient basis for submitting a hostile environment claim to a jury,” Id., citing Ellis v. CCA of Tennessee LLC, 650 F.3d 640, 648-49 (7th Cir. 2011.)

*This law language blog article should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.*

Up Next: Absence of a Hindi Court Interpreter
is Not a Reason to Skip Trial