Fired Albanian Guard Gets National Origin Bias Trial

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By Jon Steingart

Sept. 19 — An Illinois casino may have discriminated against an Albanian-born security guard by mistreating him and terminating him after he missed work following a family member’s death, a federal judge ruled ( Sheshi v. Casino Queen, Inc. , 2016 BL 306132, S.D. Ill., No. 3:15-cv-00882, 9/16/16 ).

Aleks Sheshi was the only foreign-born security officer at Casino Queen Inc., Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said Sept. 16. She found that a jury could conclude Sheshi was treated differently as a result of his national origin, in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The ruling separately analyzes Sheshi’s direct and indirect evidence of bias. It is notable because the court acknowledges that binding circuit precedent announced Aug. 19 calls into question the need do so.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit asked in that case, “Why have two tests if they consider the same information and answer the same question?” Judge Frank H. Easterbrook wrote in that decision.

Direct, Indirect Evidence Examined

Sheshi didn’t specify whether his claim was based on direct or indirect evidence of discrimination, Rosenstengel said.

Despite the Seventh Circuit questioning the need to distinguish between direct and indirect proof, she said “the Court believes it is still obligated, at this point, to consider the two methods separately when analyzing whether to grant summary judgment.”

Rosenstengel based this view on an earlier Seventh Circuit ruling, in which Judge Michael Reagan acknowledged that both methods serve the same purpose but said, nevertheless, “litigants and courts properly discuss Title VII discrimination and retaliation claims using the language of the ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ method.”

Sheshi offered direct evidence that he was subject to “constant ridicule” because of his accent and difficulty with English. A former supervisor said things such as “what’s up foreigner? Do you speak English today?” he said.

As for indirect evidence of discrimination, Sheshi said he was routinely given the least desirable assignments, which resulted in a lower income than he would have earned if he had been rotated through other positions. The Casino Queen’s unwillingness to grant him bereavement leave after his sister-in-law’s death was another example of its discriminatory animus, he said.

The Casino Queen’s response to “these incidents without discussing any of the specifics” doomed its motion for summary judgment, Rosenstengel said. Although it questioned his recollection of events and pointed to inconsistencies in his account, sowing doubt about his claims doesn’t entitle the casino to summary judgment, the judge said.

Natalia D. McKinstry of the McKinstry Law Office in St. Louis represented Sheshi. Thomas J Hunter, Garrett P. Hoerner and Katherine Porter of Becker, Hoerner, Thompson & Ysursa P.C. in Belleville, Ill., represented Casino Queen. The Illinois Gaming Board also entered an appearance, represented by Bilal Aziz and Daniel Fornoff of the state attorney general’s office in Springfield, Ill.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at

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