A federal appeals court rejected a claim of race discrimination in the provision of medical treatment.
An employer contracted with an outside company to provide healthcare at its plant.
A Black employee visited the provider to seek treatment for a painful and swollen right hand and arm.
In accordance with the employer’s policy, the provider gave him a drug test. Then it referred him to urgent care. The employee had to take himself there.
At around the same time, a white woman sought treatment for a bleeding hand that needed stitches.
The provider did not test her for drugs and quickly took her to an urgent care facility, providing transportation for her.
The provider said it took her and not him because it deemed her injury more severe and had only one vehicle for transport purposes.
Suit Alleges Race Bias
The Black employee sued the employer, alleging that it discriminated against him based on his race. He also alleged disability discrimination and retaliation. Three times, he asked the court to recruit a lawyer for him. The court did not do so.
The court ruled against him, and he filed an appeal.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision.
The lower court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the employee’s multiple requests for counsel, the court said. As to the first two requests, the employee did not show he had tried to get counsel on his own, it said. And as to the third request, the lower court reasonably concluded at the time of that request that the employee was able to handle his case on his own.
The decision of the lower court was affirmed.
It’s a somewhat unusual factual circumstance that demonstrates a very strong and important point: Different treatment does not always equal illegally discriminatory treatment.
Key question: Are you treating all similarly situated employees the same?
The answer to that question should always be an unqualified “yes.”
Cain v. Continental Tire the Americas LLC, No. 21-2908, 2022 WL 1055564 (7th Cir. 4/8/22).