The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the US District’s Court’s ruling in a case alleging reverse gender discrimination. In David Farr v. St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers , No. 08-3203, District Court Judge Sarah Barker decided that the there was no merit to the Plaintiff’s claim that St. Francis hospital had discriminated against him by terminating him for improper use of work computers. Farr was a respiratory therapist in the hospital’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department. He was the only male employee in the department staff of seven. They all shared the same computer but had different user names and passwords.
Farr was fired following an investigation into the discovery of “lurid” and “obscene” sites which had been accessed on the department’s computer. The investigation by the department showed that Farr’s user name had accessed the inappropriate sites and found that no other employees’ names were associated with the violation. The investigation also showed that Farr was the only employing working a specific Saturday when a significant portion of computer activity involved pornographic sites. Farr was suspended for five days, and ultimately fired for breaching various hospital policies.
Farr filed a grievance, and admitted that he’d accessed at least half of the sites identified on the report issued by the hospital’s IT department. However, he hired his own expert who contended that the other sites where placed on the computer by malware without his knowledge. The grievance committee upheld the termination, and in 2007, Farr filed suit alleging he was a victim of gender discrimination. Farr claimed the hospital assumed he was the only one looking at the inappropriate sites because he was the only male in the department. Judge Barker granted summary judgment in favor of the hospital in an August 1, 2008 decision, which Farr appealed.
In its decision, the federal appellate panel found that Farr’s claims didn’t hold water based on the evidence and that it was reasonable and not discriminatory for the hospital to investigate the person who was officially logged on to the computer at the times the sites were accessed. Given Farr’s admission that he had accessed at least half of the inappropriate sites, there was a nondiscriminatory basis for the employer’s action. The panel affirmed Judge Barker’s ruling, and dismissed Farr’s other claims