In a sweeping victory for NASCAR fans, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed dismissal of a discrimination law suit against Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Chevrolet. Wilson v. Dale Ernhardt, Jr. Chevrolet, No. 15-15352, 2016 WL 6211818 (11th Cir. Oct. 25, 2016). (It appears that the parties or the Court incorrectly spelled Dale, Jr’s name “Ernhardt”).
Glenda Wilson claimed that Earnhardt Chevrolet refused to promote her to a guest service manager position because she was black and older than the three women hired for the position. Yet, Ms. Wilson’s discrimination claims were undermined by her own actions. After Ms. Wilson filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, the general manager of the car dealership twice asked if she would like the position. On the second occasion, Ms. Wilson said that she was not interested in the position.
Additionally, Ms. Wilson never applied for the guest service manager position. She argued that it would be futile to apply because an operations manager told her that she would suffer a reduction in wages if she accepted the position. But, she never asked other service managers what they made, so that she could compare salaries. Moreover, the general manager testified that he actually told Ms. Wilson she would not suffer a reduction in pay.
Based upon all of the those facts, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a decision by the trial court to dismiss Ms. Wilson’s claims. Wilson provides a useful lesson for employers faced with discrimination claims. Many times, the best way to combat a discrimination claim is to offer the employee what they want when you learn about the claim. If the employee rejects that offer, then their claim for damages is severely reduced. By offering Ms. Wilson the position she desired, the dealership also created valuable evidence that helped negate the discrimination claim.