Two white male workers and one Native American employee dress up in full-fledged Ku Klux Klan attire and stand in a row, with two holding makeshift wooden crosses, while a coworker snaps a picture on his cellphone. The three posing for the photo inside Boeing’s Ridley Park facility in Pennsylvania are fired and then they sue for race discrimination. How did they expect to prove their case?
As Eric B. Meyer explains on The Employer Handbook, the three plaintiffs argued that they weren’t racist, and that the photographer, a black coworker, “had engineered the KKK photograph as a joke.”
Meyer says Boeing moved for summary judgment. In responding, he says the plaintiffs argued that the black photographer “was the instigator; they were hapless participants; he['s] equally culpable.”
However, he says the Pennsylvania federal district court found crucial differences between the plaintiffs and the photographer, stating, “Kenta Smith reported an incident of racial harassment. The plaintiffs did not—they were, instead, the object of the report. The plaintiffs appeared in a photograph dressed as the KKK. Kenta Smith did not.”
In the end, Meyer says the court concluded that no reasonable jury could find the employer fired the plaintiffs because of animus toward Caucasians and Native Americans.