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Sixth Circuit recognizes potential race discrimination claim; fact questions for jury

In the recently decided Wheat v. Fifth Third Bank decision, the Sixth Circuit concluded that the trial judge erred by granting summary disposition to the bank on Wheat's race discrimination claim.  Wheat was fired out of "fear of future violence" after a physical altercation between Wheat and another man.  Both men argued that the other was the aggressor. 

The bank claimed that it had determined that Wheat was the aggressor, and that therefore, its termination of his employment--without terminating the other man--was not racially motivated.  Wheat claimed that the excuse was pretextual, and that the bank was guilty of race discrimination in accepting the other man's claim that Wheat was the aggressor.

The appellate court agreed with Wheat that reasonable jurors could conclude that Wheat was not the aggressor and that his termination--where the other man was not terminated--evidenced race discrimination.  The case was sent back to the trial court for a decision by the jury with regard to whether the event was handled properly.

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