Utah Employment Law Letter - June 2013: Race Discrimination: Irish vs. Hispanic: When is it reasonable to suspect illegal discrimination?


In the 1800s, Irish immigrants to the United States were looked down on and treated poorly. Indeed, they were so illtreated that saying someone had the “luck of the Irish” was a humorous way of saying that the person was unlucky. Irish stereotypes developed, several of which persist today — including the Irish policeman. It is perhaps ironic then that in a recent case from Colorado, the party accused of race discrimination was a police captain with a decidedly Irish name. Despite the irony, the case helps illustrate when an employee may have a justifiable belief that he has been the subject of race discrimination.

A sergeant up in arms -

Bobby Espinoza, who is Hispanic, was a correctional officer for the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility (CTCF). In 2007, the department promoted him to sergeant, subject to a six-month trial period.

Shortly after the promotion but during the trial period, Espinoza’s son was in a car accident. Espinoza, who was scheduled to work a graveyard shift, called into work and took sick leave. Because he missed the graveyard shift, the correctional facility’s staffing fell below the required minimum, and other officers were required to cover his shift. The next day, Espinoza also took his regularly scheduled day off. In effect, because of the unexpected leave, he had two days off that week...

Originally published in the Utah Employment Law Letter - June 2013.

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