Case 42:  Dr. Stanley Dea vs. Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Racial Preferences = Racial Discrimination
WSSC Racial Preferences Dr. Stanley Dea was the highest ranking Asian American at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.  He REFUSED to make race or gender based promotions.  He was punished.

Web Posted Nov. 4, 2004

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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.

Dr. Stanley Dea
The late Dr. Stanley Dea stood up for non-dsicrimination and WSSC punished him for it.

Photo courtesy of the Institute for Justice.
WSSC Preferences
1. Summary
2. Sources, References
3. Additional Reading
4. Court Ruling
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          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 Design.

          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 Service Area
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 price.

          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 his demotion.

          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 vindicated.

          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 damages only.

          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

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Adversity.Net thanks the Institute for Justice for the source materials upon which this report is based.

1 "Political Correctness Meets Reverse Discrimination in Path-Breaking Civil Rights Lawsuit"   (Institute for Justice, 11-03-93)

Last known link:

2 "Federal Court Vindicates Manager's Refusal to Discriminate"   (Institute for Justice, 06-18-01)

Last known link:

3 "Stanley Dea -- Vindicated at Last"  (Institute for Justice, July 2001)

Last known link:

3. Additional Reading

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Related 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 Read Story!
Case 40:  Washington DC Drinking Water Threatened by Racial Politics

4. Court Ruling and Citation

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          The complete text of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision June 15, 2001 can be viewed on the following page:



END CASE 42:  Dr. Stanley Dea vs. Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Final Fourth Circuit Opinion:
Deas v. WSSC
June 15, 2001

Related Story:
Case 40: WSSC Racial Politics Threatens Water Saftey

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*  We use the term reverse discrimination reluctantly and only because it is so widely understood.  In our opinion there really is only one kind of discrimination.