By Patsy R. Brumfield | NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ORLEANS – A jury must decide if a Starkville bank discriminated against a Clay County woman because she is white, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.
In a 12-page ruling Wednesday, the court reversed U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock’s decision in favor of Woodforest Bank and sent the case back to the Northern District of Mississippi.
Branch manager Carol Vaughn was fired Feb. 20, 2009, by Woodforest on claims she made inappropriate racial comments.
Aycock dismissed the case, saying Vaughn did not have enough proof that her termination was racially motivated.
But the appeals court said that a jury, not the judge, “must decide whether Vaughn’s race was the real reason she was fired.”
Tupelo attorney Jim Waide made her appeal in oral arguments before the New Orleans court.
“This case is a good illustration that the civil rights laws protect persons of all races, including white persons, from race discrimination,” said Waide after the reversal was made public.
The court said Vaughn’s appeal showed sufficient evidence to raise “a fact issue” about her claims, although that it wasn’t necessary for the court to make a conclusion about why she was fired.
The bank claimed Vaughn made race-related “inappropriate comment” to employees and customers.
Vaughn said she advised employees not to use “the N-word” and said to others that she wished the media would stop making President Obama’s election “a black and white issue,” among other related comments.