Court Affirms Demotion of Postmaster for Selling Mary Kay Products

October 27, 2006 ( - The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with a lower court that the demotion of a former postmaster with the US Postal Service was warranted due to her conducting her Mary Kay Cosmetics business during work hours, and was not racially motivated.

At the heart of the court’s decision was that Denise Roland had not proven that she was treated differently than similarly situated employees and thus did not prove her claim of discrimination based on race under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The court determined the US Postal Service had a legitimate reason for terminating Roland, as it believed she was using her supervisory position to further her Mary Kay business.

Roland had argued that the post office had not similarly disciplined a white male employee who delivered his wife’s Avon products while driving his postal vehicle. The appellate court agreed with the district court’s opinion that the male employee was not in a supervisory position such as Roland and therefore was not similarly situated.

Roland, a postmaster of the Hephzibah, Georgia post office, was demoted in 1999 to part-time flexible clerk in the Northern Augusta post office after her supervisors received complaints from her subordinates that she was soliciting those in her charge as well as customers to buy Mary Kay products or become Mary Kay sales representatives. In addition, the Labor Relations Manager for the US Postal Services said he had warned Roland about conducting Mary Kay business during work hours more than once.

After an unsuccessful appeal of her promotion, Roland took the Postal Service to court, claiming her demotion was racially motivated. A district court granted summary judgment to the US Postal Service and the appellate court affirmed that decision.

The opinion in Roland v. US Postal Service is here .