A Case For Criminalization

My comments on criminalizing racial discrimination have generated a great deal of debate. For those yet to agree with my position, consider the following case:

According to documents on file with the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, in April 1994, Ron Mays went to work for Lanier World Wide, Inc. selling copy machines.

Court records show Mays, a relative of baseball-great Willie Mays, has a credible background including; paralegal work at the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and volunteering at Faith Crusades Ministry. He attended Auburn University in Montgomery, served as an elected Constable, spoke to the Alabama Senate at the invitation of Senator Wendell Mitchell, and received an “Outstanding Citizen” award from Montgomery Mayor Emory Folmar for foiling an attempted bank robbery.

Mays’ job performance at Lanier is also remarkable. Seven months after taking the job, Mays became their top producer. He often sold more machines than the other 12 salesmen combined. But as good as it was, Ron Mays’ outstanding sales record was not enough to shield him from discrimination because of the color of his skin.

Mays was hired in April 1994 by Leland Brown, Lanier’s Montgomery sales supervisor. He learned quickly and soon qualified for account executive, the office’s highest sales position. Four months later, Peter Brandsma became the new sales supervisor.

Mays had no reason to suspect Brandsma, but Brown knew, and later testified to, a dark side of Brandsma. At numerous managers’ meetings, Brown had witnessed Brandsma “pull his lip down and call him (Mays) ‘blue gum’” and “make monkey noises mocking Ron Mays.” Brandsma treated Mays unfairly.

Ron Mays situation worsened in June 1995 when Don Deweese took over as district manager. According to the record, Deweese joined Brandsma in discriminating against Mays.

The stress caused Mays’ sales production to drop. He also felt forced to seek psychological counseling. In December, Mays filed a race discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). When discrimination continued, Mays added to the charges. Shortly thereafter (June 25, 1996), Lanier fired him for “low sales.”

The EEOC issued Mays two right-to-sue letters for race discrimination and employer retaliation. Although Mays technically had the right to sue, he could not. Why? When he took the job, Mays signed an employment contract requiring him to submit all disputes to binding arbitration, rather than the courts.

The case was presented to an arbitrator who had to decide four issues. First, was Mays subjected to racial discrimination? Second, was he terminated in retaliation for filing an EEOC complaint? Third, was he subjected to a hostile work environment? And fourth, was he subjected to emotional and mental harm because of the discriminatory practices he endured?

The hearing lasted eight days and cost Mays in excess of $20,000. Those expenses included a $3,500 filing fee to the AAA, over $10,000 for witness travel expenses, transcripts, hearing room rent, and $1,000 per day for the arbitrator. In addition, he must pay his lawyers’ fee, because the arbitrator ruled against him on all counts.

The bottom line for Mays is that the arbitration cost more than going to Federal Court. In addition, he now has the expense of going into U.S. District Court to try to get the arbitrator’s decision, which his lawyers, Julian McPhillips and Karen Sampson, called “unconscionable and/or against public policy,” set aside.

Regardless of the specifics of this case, the cozy financial relationship between the AAA and large corporations like Lanier World Wide Inc. looks suspicious. Lanier pays the AAA an annual $10,000 sponsorship and a renewal fee of $6,000 before beginning each arbitration. Their sponsorship introduces the appearance of a conflict of interest into every arbitration.

Do not confuse arbitration with mediation. In mediation, the disputing parties voluntarily make an agreement between themselves. If mediation fails, the disputants can still resort to the courts. On the other hand, arbitration is more like a court decision made by a third party, rather than a judge. The arbitrator imposes a binding settlement upon the parties. There are extremely limited means to appeal.

More importantly, when an individual accepts a job offer, he or she should not have to give up their constitutional rights to trial by jury and to a workplace free from discrimination. I predict requiring mandatory binding arbitration in cases of unlawful “workplace” discrimination will be found unconstitutional.

Finally, this case highlights the need for certain types of discrimination to be codified into our criminal statutes.

~

Originally for Publication: 18 February 1998, Montgomery Advertiser.

All articles are copyrighted – Major W. Cox.

1 comment to A Case For Criminalization

  • Brenda Hisel

    You speak nothing of the “little” people Mr. Mays took down on his way up. I’m a small business (gas) station in Selma, Al who finally closed the first of 2013 because of worthless company (City Skies)checks ($415.18) that was never considered significant enough to reimburse. This check was replaced by another bogus check. After trying very hard thru legal means, I understand what you mean by Mays having mingled with higher ups. We thought we had legal system behind us (the corrupt) one.

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