A federal court has upheld the firing of a Florida hospital employee who joyously celebrated the sudden death of her supervisor by telling co-workers "Praise the Lord,
victory is mine. You don't mess with a child of God!"
Barbara West, an African-American clerical worker, had claimed that her termination by Shands Hospital's Eastside Clinic amounted to racial and religious discrimination.
In May of 2001, Mary Wiren, a supervisor with whom West admittedly had a rocky relationship, suffered a postsurgical stroke and died soon thereafter. When West learned of the stroke and that Wiren's condition had worsened, she told a colleague, "More than that is going to happen to her... She will reap what she sows. What goes around comes around."
That was on a Friday. When West learned over the weekend that Werin had died, she responded by saying, "The Lord's will has been done." Returning to work on Monday, West told co-workers "Victory is mine, I have conquered it," and "Vengeance is served, God bless this day!"
West's supervisors said her actions caused a major disruption in the clinic's activities, and that some of her co-workers were so upset that they were unable to perform their normal duties.
Two days later, West was fired for exercising poor judgment in making her celebratory comments regarding Wiren's death and for disrupting the work environment.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida found no merit in West's claims of discrimination.
In his order granting the hospital's motion for summary judgment, Judge Maurice M. Paul said that West was legitimately terminated for "outrageous conduct."
"West's overt celebration of the sudden and tragic death of her supervisor, Mary Wiren, is far beyond the pale of reasonable workplace behavior," Paul wrote. "This conduct would not be tolerated in any workplace, and certainly justified prompt and severe action by Shands."
Source: West v. Shands Hosp. & Clinics Inc., N.D. Fla., No. 1:02-cv-00087 (3/23/06)