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Judge orders Hershey into mediation with discrimination case

Since the introduction of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans enjoy a lot more protections in the workplace -- more specifically, protection from discrimination based on age, sex, race, skin color and national origin. But even with this federal law in place, some employers and employees still participate in discriminatory behavior that can open companies up to civil lawsuits later on.

Our California readers can see this exemplified by a federal case in Texas where North America's largest chocolate manufacturer, Pennsylvania-based Hershey Co., is facing accusations from a former employee who claims that she was fired because of the color of her skin in late 2011.

Her race discrimination claim, which seeks an undisclosed amount of damages, highlights two key misconceptions about race discrimination in the workplace. The first misconception is that a victim cannot claim race-related termination if another person of a different ethnicity was fired at the same time for the same reasons. But as this case points out, this isn't necessarily true in all cases.

The reason this case still stands as an example of race-related termination is because the other employee, a white male, was given the choice of being fired or resigning. Because he resigned, the court has refused to dismiss the case.

The second misconception is that an employer or employee is unlikely to partake in race discrimination if they and the victim are the same race. Untrue, says the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who points out that race discrimination can occur regardless of both parties' skin color.

Because a judge has ordered the case into mediation, it will be up to both parties, with the help of a neutral mediator, to come to an agreement about how to handle this case. According to the EEOC's page on mediation, this is a great way to reach a resolution that will promote a better work environment in the end.

An experienced lawyer can help a client through the mediation process, and reach a settlement that resolves the case and ends the litigation.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Hershey Must Mediate Discrimination Claim," Cameron Langford, Oct. 9, 2014

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