The Iowa Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial in a race discrimination lawsuit involving an employee of a mall in West Des Moines.
Idorenyin Salami began working at Von Maur in the Valley West Mall after coming to the U.S. from Nigeria in 2004.
She was promoted to manage a department in 2007. Sarah Whitlock took over as store manager in 2008 and then fired Salami 2009 after Whitlock said she had received three customer complaints about Salami over a 10-month period.
Salami sued, saying Whitlock had treated her differently than the previous manager and also treated her differently than white employees. Whitlock presented evidence at the trial that described her background and showed she had black friends, which she said proved she did not have any discriminatory feelings toward blacks.
Salami attempted to have two other former black employees of Von Mauer who had been fired by Whitlock testify about their experiences. The district court judge refused to allow the testimony, saying the claims by the other two were merely allegations and did not relate directly to Salami’s case.
The jury ruled in favor of Whitlock. Salami appealed, saying the other two employees should have been allowed to testify to rebut Whitlock’s testimony that she didn’t discriminate against black employees. The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled the district court should have allowed some testimony from the two other employees.
The court says without some limited rebuttal, Salami was prohibited from answering Whitlock’s testimony that she had a long history with people of color and had good relations with them. The ruling said that denial of a chance for rebuttal by Salami was sufficiently prejudicial to constitute reversible error because Whitlock’s bias or lack of bias was central to the issues in this case.
The Appeals Court overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial.
See the complete ruling here:Salami ruling PDF