1. Summary of the Dea Case
|[Adversity.Net Report Nov. 4, 2004] -- On Friday, June 15, 2001 the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the Washington Suburban Sanitary
Commission (WSSC) violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act by retaliating against the late Dr.
Stanley Dea when he refused to hire less-qualified minority and women applicants over
better-qualified white males.
The case took
almost eight years to litigate, during which time plaintiff Stan Dea died from liver
disease. One of the judges also passed away during the protracted litigation.
The Institute for Justice began their lawsuit to defend Dr. Stanley Dea's belief in
nondiscrimination in 1993.
The late Dr. Stanley Dea stood up for non-dsicrimination and WSSC punished him for it.
Photo courtesy of the Institute for Justice.
|| Dr. Stanley Dea was
a senior engineering manager supervising 250 employees for the Washington Suburban
Sanitary Commission (WSSC), a public water utility. He was the utility's highest-ranking
Asian-American employee, holding the position of director of the Bureau of Planning and
Being a large-scale water and sewer facility, the WSSC's work is very engineering oriented
and there just were not a lot of qualified minorities and females in the available labor
pool. Nonetheless, WSSC's upper management insisted on hiring and promoting certain
races and genders even if they were less-qualified than other, non-minority candidates
such as white males.
The late Dr. Dea would have none of it. He refused to comply with the WSSC's
unwritten policy of preferring minorities and women over better-qualified individuals.
| According to the
Institute for Justice: "In 1989, Dea's department offered a promotion ... to a
white female [who was, in fact] the highest ranked candidate. ... When she declined [the
job] ... Dea offered the position to the second-highest candidate, a white male, [and] he
was reprimanded for not choosing a minority or a female. WSSC suspended Dea for five
days without pay for 'gross insubordination (not hiring a minority for the position) and
for not supporting its 'affirmative action' plan." (The severity of this first
punishment was subsequently reduced.)
WSSC's service area serves thousands
of federal workers and elected officials.
The general manager intended to send a strong signal throughout the WSSC workforce that
his race and gender preference edicts were to be obeyed - or else!
Dr. Dea received the message loud and clear. He knew that if he ever again refused
to discriminate against white males in a promotion or hiring decision he would pay a high
Subsequently, that is exactly what happened when, in 1990, Stan Dea again refused to
recommend a less-qualified woman for another important promotion, and instead recommended
the best qualified person for the position, who also happened to be a white male.
WSSC management retaliated against Dr. Dea by demoting him to a dead-end, non-supervisory
job. Management called it a "transfer".
Washington, D.C. attorney Doug Herbert and the DC-based advocacy group, Institute for
Justice, filed Dr. Stan Dea's Title VII retaliation claim in federal court in 1993 and,
after extensive discovery, filed for summary judgment because the facts clearly showed
that it was Stan's good faith belief that he was opposing an unlawful practice that led to
After extendsive delays, the trial court denied the motion and a three-day trial ensued,
at which D.C. attorney Doug Herbert demolished WSSC's defense.
Another lengthy delay followed, ending only when the presiding judge, U.S. District Judge
Deborah Chasanow, ruled in favor of WSSC by distorting the facts.
After this bizarre decision by the court, plaintiff Stan Dea authorized his attorneys to
file an appeal to the Fourth Circuit, but shortly thereafter he succumbed to liver
disease. According to his attorneys, Stan Dea remained optimistic to the end that
his faith in equal treatment for all -- regardless of race or gender -- would be
Following Dr. Dea's death, his estate agreed to continue the appeal, and attorney Doug
Herbert prosecuted it with great vigor. According to the Institute for Justice,
after bizarre delays in finalizing the record, on October 29, 1998 attorney Herbert filed
a devastating brief on Stan's behalf, followed by an incisive oral argument that left
WSSC's defense counsel reeling. Stan Dea's lawyers were confident of victory,
despite the daunting burden of overcoming the lower court judge's erroneous factual
findings. However, while the appellate court's decision was pending, one of the
three judges on the panel died, further delaying justice for Stan Dea.
Finally, on June 15, 2001 the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Stanley Dea's
favor. In a 21-page decision [See Fourth Circuit Opinion 06-15-01] the appellate court ripped apart lower
court Judge Chasanow's decision, finding that her crucial factual determinations were
clearly erroneous, so much so that the appellate court took the highly unusual step of
declining to return the case to Judge Chasanow for retrial, instead finding that the
record allowed no other conclusion than that WSSC had unlawfully retaliated against Stan
Dea. The court remanded the case to Judge Chasanow's court for determination of
Thus, nearly eight years after the complaint was filed in 1993, the perseverance of Stan
Dea, of his estate, and of attorney Doug Herbert was finally rewarded. Stan Dea's
courage and willingness to take a stand on principle, and attorney Doug Herbert's refusal
to give up in the face of crushing disappointment and misfortune, have finally received
from the Fourth Circuit the recognition they so richly deserve.
|COMMENT: As a
non-lawyer I have noticed that in many, many reverse discrimination cases against
government entities, the Court's final opinion is often officially "unpublished"
and may not be used as legal precedent in any other cases. Once again, this is true
of the Fourth Circuit's opinion in Stanley Dea v. WSSC.
I have always supposed that -- intentionally or not -- this has the effect of requiring
future victims of reverse discrimination to re-invent the wheel and repeat the lengthy and
quite expensive litigation required to secure their right to equal treatment and equal
protection regardless of their race, gender or ethnicity. This clearly has the
effect of strongly discouraging others with legitimate claims of reverse discrimination
from pursuing legal remedies. --Tim Fay
2. Sources, References
thanks the Institute for Justice for the source materials upon which this report is based.
3. Additional Reading
Case Study -- Incredibly, in February 2004 the WSSC commissioners could not find
a "preferred minority" to supply a critical water purification chemical so
they refused to buy any!
They came within two weeks of having to issue a boiled water alert to their 1.6
million customers. WSSC risked the health and safety of 1.6 million customers for
the sake of racial quotas. At the last minute, higher authorities intervened and
issued a waiver from the racial quota requirement, allowing them to buy the chemical from
a white-owned supplier.
This is a Must
Case 40: Washington DC Drinking Water
Threatened by Racial Politics
Court Ruling and Citation
The complete text of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision June 15, 2001 can be
viewed on the following page: