Plaintiff-employee wins affirmation of employment discrimination jury verdict
Michael Clum sued his employer, Jackson National Life Insurance, after his employment was terminated. He claimed the termination was a result of racial discrimination. Clum is a Caucasian who did not get along with a black co-worker in the maintenance department in Okemos. When the co-worker, DeMyers was called to rectify a power outage, he did not complete the set-up of a yoga classroom, so Clum volunteered to assist with that task. In doing so, he unloaded a tool cart that DeMyers had loaded for his own use. The two men ended up in a confrontation witnessed by several other employees, and ultimately Clum was fired. He sued alleging that his firing was racially motivated.
Clum's lawyers presented to the jury evidence supporting his claim that "DeMyers liked to play the race card" after another white employee was fired for insinuating that DeMyers' race was the reason for their vehicle being stopped by police. Clum relied on his superior emmployment record and what is called "cat's paw" argument: the claim that a defendant's ultimate decision was based on a non-decision maker's racial bias.
Ultimately, the jury awarded Clum more than a million dollars in damages and Jackson National LIfe appealed. The higher court noted that there were no errors in the trial and that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable juror to conclude that Clum's termination was, in part, a function of racial discrimination.