Heatherlee Finn was employed by a security company, and her duties included hiring and placing security guards at clients’ locations. Finn, who was not a security guard, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against the company, alleging violation of the Civil Rights Act. Finn received her right-to-sue letter from the EEOC and filed a lawsuit against her employer. In her lawsuit, Finn alleged the company discriminated against security guards and applicants in its hiring and placement procedures. The plaintiff alleged the company often honored a client’s request to place security guards at their location based on their race, sex, national origin or skin color. Finn alleged she was required to carry out the discriminatory acts and procedures set by the defendant as a part of her work duties.
The company filed a motion to dismiss Finn’s complaint, arguing she did not have standing to bring an action for discrimination. The defendant argued that only an aggrieved person could file a suit under the Civil Rights Act. According to the defendant, only the security guards or the applicants who were the target of the alleged discriminatory practices could file a suit for damages under the federal and state civil rights acts.
Finn, in turn, argued she had standing to bring the lawsuit under the retaliation provision of the Civil Rights Act. Finn claimed she suffered adverse employment action because she spoke up against the alleged discriminatory practices of her employer.
The federal district court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The district court held Finn did not show any adverse employment action taken against her by her employer that would support her retaliation claim. The district court held Finn’s lawsuit was subject to dismissal because she was not the target of her employer’s alleged discriminatory practices nor did she prove she suffered an adverse employment action in retaliation for her filing a claim alleging her employer violated the Civil Rights Act.
The court in this case dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit alleging civil rights because the plaintiff was not the appropriate person to bring the lawsuit, but not because it concluded the claims lacked merit. The plaintiff’s allegations that the company grants clients’ requests to place security guards based on impermissible criteria, such as race, may well expose the company to liability.
Finn v. Kent Sec. Servs. Inc., No. 13-60631 (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Nov. 6, 2013).