The Fifth Circuit recently affirmed the granting of summary judgment to an employer dismissing a Title VII race discrimination claim. In Stroy v. Gibson, an African American primary care physician employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs alleged race discrimination following a peer review committee determination that competent practitioners would have managed the treatment of a patient differently than Plaintiff. Briefly, the employer’s policy allowed for peer review of a doctor’s patient care after a patient’s admission to the hospital within three days of an ambulatory care visit. The patient at issue was admitted to the hospital two days after the visit with Stroy.
Upon learning of the peer review committee’s determination that competent practitioners would have handled the patient differently, Stroy requested an opportunity to respond. The employer scheduled a second peer committee meeting. However, before the meeting was conducted, Stroy filed a complaint of discrimination. Ultimately, the committee reversed its finding.
The Fifth Circuit reviewed the District Court’s determination that Stroy failed to allege a prima facie case of race discrimination under Title VII. The District Court held, and the Fifth Circuit agreed, that Stroy did not allege an adverse employment action under Title VII. The Court ruled the peer review committee’s actions did not constitute an “ultimate employment decision” (such as hiring, firing, promoting, etc.). Here, Stroy offered no evidence that he suffered a reduction in privileges, job responsibilities, or pay as a result of the peer review process.
Although the end result was favorable for the employer, it was solely because of the specific facts of this case. In another case, a poor performance review that does result in a denial of a pay increase or a demotion could very well end up creating liability for discrimination.