Achieved A $500,000 Recovery And Advantageous Future Terms of Employment In A Racial
Our clients were employees at a specific station in the department of a large municipality. The station was managed by a department chief (the “Chief”) who both exercised full charge over assignments given to the employees and bore responsibility for completing their performance evaluations. Our clients asserted that they were often demeaned and oppressed on the basis of their race and national origin. Our clients also asserted that they had been unfairly treated in their career paths, on the same basis.
In testimony, the Chief explained that the department’s culture was to use racial remarks as a means for providing a comedic break to an otherwise stressful environment. The Chief explained that comments such as “lazy Mexican” and/or “lazy black man” were terms used at the department in jest. When asked to give an example of an acceptable comedic remark, the Chief testified “Mexicans sure like their burritos and beer.” Witnesses within the department came forward to testify concerning frequent, demeaning racial slurs used at the department. The type of language described was both extensive and highly offensive.
According to sworn testimony, the Chief provided desirable assignments to white employees and assignments that were not as desirable or would not lead to promotions to minority employees. Case witnesses also testified that the Chief threatened minority employees with poor performance ratings and he withheld performance evaluations for substantial time periods to maintain leverage. Upon our clients’ requesting an inquest concerning the Chief’s conduct, evidence indicates that serious retaliation ensued. Past performance evaluations were replaced by amended evaluations which were substantially downgraded. The downgraded evaluations disqualified these employees from both eligibility for lucrative special assignments and promotions.
Initially, the municipality stonewalled any serious negotiations, despite having initiated settlement meetings. Instead, our clients were told they would be fortunate simply to continue in their employment with the municipality. In addition, our clients were threatened that if they failed to prevail in the action, the municipality would pursue all of its litigation costs by evicting them from their homes which would then be sold.
After this firm completed its investigations and discovery; and on the eve of trial, the tenor of the department’s posturing significantly changed. In a reversal of all prior negotiations, the department agreed to resolve the matter by means of a $500,000 settlement payment to our clients. In addition, it was agreed that all performance evaluations which had been downgraded would be restored to their initial ratings and those which were pending would be conducted by specific persons who were deemed not implicated in the racial discrimination activity. The municipality also agreed to provide elevated positions and job benefits based upon the merit of restored and newly issued performance evaluations.