HR Strange But True!
October 26, 2006

An appellate court has ruled against a former postmaster who claimed her demotion -- for selling Mary Kay Cosmetics to customers and subordinates while on the job -- was the result of racial discrimination.

In 1999, the U.S. Postal Service demoted Denise Roland from her position as postmaster of Hephzibah, Georgia to a part-time clerk's job at another facility. The postal service said it had received complaints that Roland was soliciting customers and employees to buy Mary Kay products and become Mary Kay representatives, and that the demotion was based on that "unacceptable conduct."

Roland, who is black, sued under Title VII, alleging disparate treatment because a similarly situated white male post office employee had been disciplined less severely for distributing Avon products from his wife's business while using a post office vehicle.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit disagreed that the two employees were similarly situated. "The comparator must be ''nearly identical' to the plaintiff to prevent courts from second-guessing a reasonable decision by the employer," the court said. In this case, the other employee "delivered his wife's Avon products outside of the postal facility and did not involve subordinates in his Avon activities."

"Simply put, [the other postal worker] was not 'similarly situated in all relevant respects' or 'nearly identical' to Roland for purposes of Title VII," the court wrote.

Source: Roland v. USPS, 11th Cir., No. 06-12261, unpublished 10/11/06

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