Supreme Court to Hear Discrimination Suit Against Coca-Cola

January 10, 2007 ( - The US Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear a case that alleges Coca-Cola fired a worker, who refused to work on his day off, because he was black.

The case hinges on whether the racial bias of the Stephen Peters’ supervisor influenced the decision by a human resources officer to fire Peters, according to court documents.

Peters worked as a merchandiser at one of the company’s bottling plants in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When he refused to work on his day off, supervisor Cesar Grado, who did not have the authority to fire Peters, warned him that such insubordination could lead to termination.According to  the petition asking for Supreme Court review, there was evidence that Grado had made racially demeaning comments about blacks and had been known to be more lenient with Hispanic workers.

On a Saturday, Peters went to an urgent care physician, who   diagnosed him with a sinus infection, gave him a prescription and directed him not to return to work until the following Monday. Peters then told his direct supervisor, Jeff Katt, that he would not be able to work on Sunday because he was sick, which Katt said he didn’t have a problem with.

Peters’ supervisors met on the Monday to discuss Peters’ absence from work and discovered in his file another instance in which he refused to work on his day off. The following day, he was fired by human resources representatives.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought Peters’ case to the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, which found for Coca-Cola. However, the 10 th  US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision and sent back the case, determining only that Peters had  “created a genuine issue of fact as to whether Grado was racially biased and whether there was a sufficient causal connection between Grado’s bias and Peters’ termination.”

The case is BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Los Angeles v. EEOC, 06-341.