McKinney v. Sheriff's Office of Whitley County, No. 16-4131 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
In 2013 the Sheriff of Whitley County, Indiana hired the county’s first black police officer, McKinney. Nine months later, McKinney was fired. He sued for race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e–2. The district court granted summary judgment for the Sheriff. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, his extensive evidence adds up to a strong case of race discrimination. The Sheriff “has offered an ever-growing list of rationales for firing McKinney that fall apart in the face of his evidence.” The Sheriff’s termination letter provided three reasons for his discharge. Four days later, the Board of Commissioners sent McKinney another letter that added two more reasons. After McKinney brought suit, the defense added three more reasons. McKinney presented evidence that he was treated differently than his similarly situated colleagues who are not black. He also presented substantial evidence that the many rationales offered for firing him were baseless and pretextual. The district court erred by disregarding most of McKinney’s evidence, improperly discounting his testimony as “self-serving,” and misreading the circuit’s precedent on the “common actor” inference that is sometimes argued in discrimination cases.