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Scion Dental, a Unit of SkyGen USA, Ordered to Face Trial for Race Discrimination in EEOC Suit

Jury to Decide Whether Company Rejected Qualified Job Candidate Based on Race

MILWAUKEE - A federal court has denied a motion by Scion Dental, Inc. to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed in September 2016 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before trial, the federal agency announced. Scion Dental is a dental benefit administration company based in Menomonee Falls, Wis. The EEOC charged that Scion Dental violated federal law when it refused to hire an African-American temporary employee into a permanent position because of her race.

Scion Dental has, since the EEOC filed its lawsuit, merged with three other companies and is now known as SkyGen USA, Inc.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David E. Jones, of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, determined that the EEOC had presented evidence that Nartisha Leija, an African-American woman who had successfully performed her job with Scion Dental as a temporary employee, was qualified for the position she sought, despite Scion's argument that she did not hold a college degree and/or did not interview well. The judge noted that Leija's application was twice rejected during a time period when Scion hired nine non-African-Americans for the position, several of whom did not hold college degrees. The court held that this evidence, combined with the manager's stated goal "to change the face" of the network development department, were enough to require a trial on the EEOC's claim of race discrimination.

The court also agreed with the EEOC's separate motion that Scion cannot argue to the jury that it would have fired Leija because she printed out e-mail messages, which praised her work performance, from her own work email account to bring to the EEOC, because Scion Dental failed to show that it had fired other employees for similar conduct. The court therefore found it unnecessary to address the EEOC's argument that a termination for bringing evidence to the EEOC would, itself, have been a violation of the law.

The EEOC's Chicago District office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.