“Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears” is a blog series documenting the harmful impact of President Trump’s judges on Americans’ rights and liberties. Cases in the series can be found by issue and by judge at this link.
Trump Fourth Circuit Judge Marvin Quattlebaum wrote a 2-1 decision affirming the dismissal, without trial or even any discovery, of an employment racial discrimination claim by a man who was fired on his first day of work after a supervisor learned he was African American. The May 2020 decision was in Bing v. Brivo Systems LLC.
Robel Bing, an African American man, was hired as a customer care representative with Brivo Systems LLC. Brivo had offered him employment a day after his interview, and “encouraged him to start as soon as possible.” Bing did not mention his race on his job application, although he was interviewed in person by two Brivo employees. Bing passed a routine background check, and he reported for a new-employee orientation less than three weeks after his interview.
When Bing arrived at work, he was introduced to Charles Wheeler, a white man who was described as Brivo’s “security architect” and who had not been involved in Bing’s hiring. “Within an hour of starting orientation,” Wheeler confronted Bing about a news article he had just found on the internet mentioning Bing’s “tangential involvement” in a shooting incident for which he had “faced no charges.” Bing had loaned his “lawfully owned” handgun to a friend, who fired it in the air at a Halloween party, injuring a third person.
Without giving Bing a chance to respond, Wheeler berated Bing, claiming that he was “not fit” for employment with Brivo. Wheeler fired him “on the spot,” and escorted him out of the building.
Bing filed a charge of employment discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued him a right to sue letter. Acting without an attorney, Bing filed a lawsuit charging employment discrimination under Title VII. The complaint recounted what had happened, and claimed that Wheeler searching Bing on the internet after he had passed his security clearance was effectively a “means for discrimination.” He continued that he could “find nothing” other than his “(possibly unexpected) physical appearance as an African-American male” to explain “actions of race…discrimination, initiated by Mr. Wheeler, whose actions clearly fell outside of Brivo hiring processes.”
Without any discovery or a trial, the district court dismissed Bing’s case, and a 2-1 decision by Quattlebaum for the Fourth Circuit agreed. Fairly read, Quattlebaum claimed, the complaint alleged a “non-racial reason for his termination” – the news article about a shooting that involved Bing’s gun. In addition, according to Quattlebaum, the complaint did not specifically allege that the internet search that resulted in the article was “racially motivated.”
Judge William Traxler strongly dissented. Rather than interpreting the allegations of the complaint “liberally” in favor of a party like Bing, who filed suit without an attorney, as the law requires, Traxler explained that the district court and the majority had “effectively viewed the allegations of the complaint in favor of Brivo rather than Bing.” As the law requires, Traxler went on, the complaint “plausibly alleged” that Bing was “discriminated against because of his race.” As the complaint indicated, Traxler elaborated, the “only new information Wheeler would have learned upon meeting Bing was Bing’s race,” thus providing enough factual information to support the conclusion that Bing was subjected to the additional background check by Wheeler, and then fired, “because of his race,” violating Title VII. Traxler concluded that the district court’s dismissal should have been reversed, and the case should have been sent back to the lower court so Bing could try to prove his case.
Because of Quattlebaum’s opinion, however, Bing will not even have a chance to prove that he was the victim of racial discrimination by his employer. Once again, a Trump judge has prevented a Black man who experienced racial discrimination in the workplace from pursuing accountability from his former employer.