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Court rejects worker's claim of religious discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment

In Sekou v. CMS Energy Corporation d/b/a Consumers Energy, thePlaintiff appealed the lower court's dismissal of his wrongful discharge claims.   He had contested his discharge, claiming that it resulted from religious discrimination, that it was retaliation for filing an EEOC claim, and that he had been subjected to a hostile work environment.

The Court held that Sekou failed to establish a wrongful discharge, because Consumers Energy had documented prolonged and serious performance deficiencies justifying the discharge, which Sekou had failed to rebut.  Since these deficiencies were not a "pretext" for discipline, they were upheld.

The Court also held that for the most part, the incidents which Sekou relied upon to prove discrimination had occurred so long ago that the statute of limitations on these incidents had run.  While they were admissible to establish a background pattern of discrimination, they were no longer actionable.  In any event, since Sekou admitted that he had failed to report to his supervisors the recent, actionable occurrences, his employer could not be held accountable for the resulting work environment.

Finally, the Court held that Sekou had not proved that his termination was retaliation for filing the EEOC claim, since it appeared that the termination took place before the filing occurred and the investigation that resulted in Sekou's termination was initiated by employees with a non-pretextual basis for investigation who alleged no knowledge of the EEOC threat.  Lastly, the Court ruled that the examples of "similarly situated" individuals whom Sekou claimed received different and preferential treatment were not "nearly identical" to Sekou as required for purposes of this comparison.

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