The judges stated that the Sheriff's Office was "dishonest" in their firing of McKinney.
McKinney was fired on May 15, 2014, with Sheriff Mark Hodges providing three reasons for the firing of McKinney in a termination notice: violating standard operating procedure for monthly reports and fueling county vehicles as well as submitting false work hours.
McKinney received an additional termination letter that added: damaging a county vehicle and failure to follow verbal instructions for his firing.
The suit against the Sheriff's office states that during the 2013 interview, the sheriff discussed race with McKinney, although the deputy never thought he would experience discrimination. McKinney claims that there were several incidents that made him feel uncomfortable, with one officer even using the "N-word" in front of the deputy.
He also states that there were deputies who refused to train him for his position and many who wouldn't talk to him.
The District Court ruled in favor of the sheriff, stating that McKinney could not establish his claims. The court even called McKinney's testimony "self-serving" and "speculative." The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the earlier court's verdict.
Judge David Hamilton states that there was "no valid ground" to not consider McKinney's evidence.
The evidence McKinney has provided to the court includes hundreds of pages, with documents, gas receipts, scheduling records and testimonies that can prove that workplace discrimination and not McKinney's conduct led to his firing.
Hamilton reprimanded the court for failing to consider the evidence and instead only consider the affidavit of the sheriff. The case has been remanded to the trial court.
The sheriff's office additionally provided three more reasons for the deputy's termination when the initial discrimination case was filed. The 7th Circuit believes that the evidence provided by McKinney provides a strong case for racial discrimination.
The nature of Terrance McKinney v Sheriff's Office of Whitley Co, case number 16-4131, is one of many similar cases where police officers and sheriff deputies have filed claims of discrimination for their firing.
The court found that McKinney provided enough evidence to demonstrate that he met employment expectations and was treated improperly. A slight ding on McKinney's mirror was cited as a reason for the sheriff deputy being terminated.
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