Ad Salesman Loses Case Over Racial Dress Code

     (CN) – A CBS Radio supervisor’s decision to distribute a book instructing black salesmen to “dress like a white” to show that they’re “pushing no radical ideas” may have indicated poor judgment, but it didn’t constitute discrimination, the 3rd Circuit ruled.

     Plaintiff Shawn Brooks sold radio advertising for Philadelphia Eagles games on the station WYSP. Of the station’s 25 account executives, Brooks was the only African-American.
     He and his colleagues were given a book called “New Dress for Success,” which contained some offensive passages, including one that stated: “If you are black selling to white Middle America, dress like a white. … This clothing conveys that you are a member of the establishment and that you are pushing no radical or other feared ideas.”
     Brooks’ supervisor, Joseph Zurzolo, had not read the book when he distributed it at a meeting and told account executives to “use it.”
     Offended, Brooks filed a formal complaint about Zurzolo and quit his job. He later sued CBS Radio, claiming he had been constructively fired by a hostile work environment. He lost in the district court.
     The three-judge appellate panel in Philadelphia upheld the ruling for CBS Radio, saying Brooks failed to prove that he’d suffered racial discrimination or that he encountered “severe or pervasive harassment.”
     “Although Brooks was understandably offended by the contents of the book … the record is clear that Zurzolo did not know about book’s offensive passages and that employees were quickly informed that the book did not reflect the views of the company or their supervisors,” wrote Senior District Judge T.S. Ellis of Virginia, who was asked to join the three-judge panel.

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