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Case 46: Four White Employees of Phila. Schools WIN Reverse Discrimination Suit!

Racial Preferences = Racial Discrimination
Too Many White Guys!
Statements allegedly made by the Phila. Schools' black procurement officer, Kimberly Sangster:

"Caucasian managers' offices are too big.  I'm going to do something about it."

"There are too many white guys in this department!"

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Federal Jury Finds that Philadelphia School's Black Procurement Officer, Kimberly Sangster, Racially Discriminated Against Four White Employees.
$3 Million Awarded for Reverse Discrimination.

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Web Posted Dec. 22, 2005


SUMMARY:
Former Philadelphia School District Employees Win $2.96 Million
"Reverse" Race Discrimination Verdict

Philadelphia, PA (Dec. 20, 2005) -- After battling for equal rights for almost three years, four white men, all of them former purchasing managers of the School District of Philadelphia, won vindication and a $2.96 million verdict on claims of "reverse" race discrimination and retaliation in a jury verdict entered in federal court today.

          The verdict -- believed to be one of the largest "reverse" discrimination awards ever in Pennsylvania -- was a resounding rejection of claims by the School District and its Chief Procurement Officer Kimberly Sangster, also a defendant, that the terminations were due to business reasons and not race discrimination.

          Three of the four plaintiffs - Robert Johnston of Philadelphia, Jack Zubris of Holland, Pa., and Edward Pilosi of Bala Cynwyd -- also will be reinstated to comparable jobs at the School District, pursuant to an order entered today by Judge Harvey Bartle III of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Phila Schools Index:
* Summary
News: Philly Inquirer 12-20-05 News: Philly Inquirer 12-20-05
News: Law.Com 12-21-05 News: Law.Com 12-21-05
Plaintiff's Lawyer Lawyer for Plaintiffs
Table: Amount of Award TABLE: Amount of Award

The fourth plaintiff, Peter Bracchi, formerly of Philadelphia, has moved to Florida and was awarded front pay of $243,000, instead of reinstatement.

          Each plaintiff testified as to the devastating effects to their careers and their emotions, as they were terminated in February of 2003, without notice and with a security guard stationed outside their offices. None of the plaintiffs had ever been written up for performance issues or terminated in their lives. The jury awarded each plaintiff $500,000 for "mental anguish, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation" due to the race discrimination and retaliation, and back pay in amounts varying from $71,016 to $203,107.

          "Our theme throughout this case was that all employees -- regardless of whether they are black, white, yellow or brown -- are entitled to equal rights and equal protection against race discrimination at work," said Michael Homans, a shareholder in the Philadelphia office of Flaster/Greenberg P.C., who represented the plaintiffs and concentrates his practice in employment law. Flaster/Greenberg attorney Lizanne V. Hoerst also represented the plaintiffs at the trial.

Philadelphia School District
Philadelphia School District

          "We were able to prove that the School District and Sangster not only discriminated against these men because they were white, in violation of state and federal laws, but that they also viciously retaliated against them after they complained about the race discrimination and tried to get their jobs back," Homans said. "Bizarrely, the District never even investigated these men's claims of race discrimination, and would not interview them for the many openings in the Procurement Department for which they applied. In addition, when another manager tried to hire Mr. Johnston, District CEO Paul Vallas's assistant called the hiring manager and yelled at him and mentioned the lawsuit. The School District then revoked the job offer."

          The School District admitted that the long-serving employees -- who each had from 13 to 33 years of work experience with the District -- were not fired because of performance. Instead, the District contended their terminations were due to a cost-cutting "reorganization" of the District's Procurement Department. The plaintiffs presented evidence that the cost-cutting claim was false, as the Procurement Department's budget rose every year after the reorganization, including the addition of nearly $500,000 in May of 2003 -- three months after the terminations.

          In addition, two of the School District's own managers testified they could have found productive employment for the four if Sangster had ever notified them of the pending reorganization. The School District has a $1.9 billion annual budget and hires close to 2,000 new employees each year.

          The School District's Director of Labor Relations at the time, Gail Borden Krause, testified that Sangster's claim that the reorganization was done to eliminate an inefficient layer of management was a "sham," as Sangster hired four new managers within months of terminating the four plaintiffs. Sangster also hired new managers who the plaintiffs argued were less qualified -- including two African-Americans who had no experience in Procurement.

          The evidence also showed that the first seven hires and/or promotions Sangster made favored African-Americans, whereas the only persons she fired in her reorganization were the four white plaintiffs. Only after plaintiffs' complaints of racial bias were shared with Sangster -- and she consulted legal counsel at the District -- did she hire additional whites into the Procurement Department. Too Many White Guys!

          Sangster's handwritten notes from her first meeting at the School District also showed that she had kept track of the race of many attendees of the meeting, including people she knew and School Reform Commission members. She could not explain her reasoning for this at trial, but admitted that she kept note of things that were "important" to her.

          Sangster also made racial comments to Johnston, a plaintiff, including telling him there were "too many white male managers" in the Procurement Department.
Sangster also admitted that in her view of equal opportunity, having a goal of hiring people of a certain race is acceptable.

          "This is a significant verdict and ruling," said Homans, who represents individuals, as well as employers. "This affirms that the state and federal laws in employment discrimination protect all races equally, and juries will protect the rights of white males as well as minorities."

          Defendants were represented by Carl Singley, Richard Meyer, Michael Hanlon, and Heather Steinmiller of Blank Rome, a Philadelphia law firm.

Based upon press release supplied by the law firm of Faster Greenberg.
Last known link:
http://www.flastergreenberg.com/press_releases/05_12h.cfm


Headline:  Workers' bias suit ends in win, slur
(excerpted from The Philadelphia Inquirer article by the same name Tue, Dec. 20, 2005)

Subhead:  Jurors said a lawyer called them "crackers." The school district was told to pay four white men nearly $3 million.

          "Four white men fired by the Philadelphia School District have won a racial-discrimination lawsuit, and a federal jury awarded them nearly $3 million in damages.

          "After Friday's verdict, Carl E. Singley, a prominent African American lawyer who represented the school district, exchanged words with some members of the all-white jury as they rode a courthouse elevator.  He called them 'crackers,' four jurors said in interviews.

          "Within 30 minutes, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III brought Singley and five of the seven jurors in the case back into his courtroom.  Singley, a former Temple Law School dean, promptly apologized.

          " 'What I did and said was inappropriate,' Singley said, according to a transcript. 'I should not have disrespected you, and I do apologize.'

          "In a statement last night, the school district's chief executive officer, Paul Vallas, said he had not yet spoken with Singley about the elevator incident but planned to pursue the matter.  'If the statement is true it is outrageous and hurtful to us all,' Vallas said.

Phila Schools Index:
UP: Phila. Summary Summary
* News: Philly Inquirer 12-20-05
News: Law.Com 12-21-05 News: Law.Com 12-21-05
Plaintiff's Lawyer Lawyer for Plaintiffs
Table: Amount of Award TABLE: Amount of Award

          "The unusual post-verdict hearing came at the end of a two-week trial during which the four white men alleged that they were wrongfully fired from the district's purchasing department in 2003.  They alleged reverse racial discrimination and said that the district's chief purchasing officer, Kimberly Sangster [a recently hired black woman], retaliated when the men initially complained of discrimination.

Philly Schools Cannot Discriminate on Race!
Philly Schools Cannot Discriminate on Employee's Race!
          " 'What we stressed to the jury is that the law in America is that equal opportunity in employment applies to everyone,' said lawyer Michael D. Homans, who represented the four plaintiffs with [assistant attorney] Lizanne V. Hoerst.  'You can't discriminate against anyone based on race - white people, black people, Hispanics.  Discrimination infected the decision-making of [black PA school procurement chief] Kim Sangster.'

          "In his statement, [the school district's chief executive officer, Paul Vallas] said the district was considering an appeal.  'We vehemently disagree with the verdict,' he said. 

" 'Kim Sangster is one of the finest public servants that I have had the pleasure to work with.  Under her leadership, the procurement department has made it possible for the district to focus more dollars into the classroom.  This case does not reflect in any way her professionalism and leadership' " said PA Schools' CEO Paul Vallas.

          "At trial, [attorney for the four white guys, Michael D.] Homans argued that Sangster set out to replace white managers with blacks and that she did not hire a white worker until the plaintiffs threatened to sue.  The lead plaintiff, Robert Johnston, was rehired, but was assigned to a putrid basement office 'where sewer water is standing,' Homans said.

          " 'They're out to get these guys no matter what,' Homans told the jury.  'They're ticked off because they had the nerve to sue for race discrimination.'

          "In his closing argument, [defense attorney for the Phila. schools] Singley told the jury that the plaintiffs had manipulated the evidence to falsely portray Sangster as a racist.  He called her 'the real victim.'

          " 'These men were playing the race card,' Singley said.  'And I told you what the steps in the race card are: You make the claim, manipulate the facts... and then you rely on people's racial fears and prejudices to reach the conclusion that you want to reach... . If we had the same facts, same gender, same race, there would be no case.  Think about that. That's how the race-card strategy works.'

          "The jury began deliberating late Thursday and returned the verdict about 3:15 p.m. Friday.  'We really worked hard at it,' recalled [juror] Joanna Harrison, who lives in Berks County.

          "The jury foreman, Bruce Furman, who works in Feasterville, said the evidence showed that [the black, Phila. schools procurement officer Kimberly] Sangster ignored federal discrimination laws and school district policies.  Juror Joann Dickel of Lancaster said that Sangster's own notes showed illegal bias and that her testimony was not credible.

CRACKER!  Racial Slur...

          "Shortly after the verdict, five jurors entered the elevator with [the black defense attorney for the school district, Carl E.] Singley and other trial participants for the ride down from the 16th floor.

          "In interviews yesterday, four of the jurors in the elevator - Harrison, Furman, Dickel, and Patricia Lewis of Malvern - gave the following account.

[The black defense attorney for the school district] Singley said: "I hope you can sleep tonight."

A juror replied: "I'll have no trouble sleeping at night, thank you."

Singley: "God bless America."

Another juror: "God bless America. That's why I'm glad I live here."

Singley: "You're just a bunch of crackers." [Emphasis added.]

          "The fifth juror in the elevator could not be reached for comment. A member of the school district's defense team gave a slightly different account. That person said a juror addressed Singley first.

Juror to Singley: "How're you doing?"

Singley: "I hope you can sleep at night with the decision you rendered."

Juror: "I'll have no trouble sleeping at night, thank you. This is America. God bless America."

Singley: "That's only if you're crackers."  [Emphasis added.]

          "What happened next is not disputed.  After Singley stepped off the elevator on the ground floor, the jurors decided to go back to see the judge.

          "We thought it was rather rude," Harrison said. "He was obviously upset."

          "Dickel said she 'was quite shaken up by it because he said it so unprofessionally and confrontationally... . I thought, 'Is this what happens all the time?'

          "[Federal judge] Bartle received the five jurors in his chambers, and, according to Furman, told them Singley's comments were inappropriate.  [Judge] Bartle declined to be interviewed yesterday.

          "[Judge] Bartle then called [Philly school's black defense attorney Carl E.] Singley and the other lawyers back to his courtroom.  The judge began to call the jurors to the microphone to explain what happened, but Singley said it was not necessary.

          " 'I admit to making inappropriate comments,' Singley said, according to a transcript.

          "The four plaintiffs in the case were each awarded $500,000 for 'past, present and future mental anguish, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation.'  They also got their old jobs back, plus back pay.

Table data from Philadelphia Inquirer article.
Plaintiff: Background: Jury Award:
Robert Johnston, age 54, of Philadelphia Former director of material maintenance $71,000 in back pay, and ...

$500,000 for past, present and future mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation

Jack Zubris, age 57, of Holland, Bucks County Joined the school district in 1973 and specialized in technology $203,000 in back pay, and ...

$500,000 for past, present and future mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation

Ed Pilosi, age 57, of Bala Cynwyd Purchasing manager for the district and a 33 year employee $302,000 in back pay, and ...

$500,000 for past, present and future mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation

Peter Bracchi, age 55, of Philadelphia A food service manager for the district $141,000 in back pay, and...

$500,000 for past, present and future mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation, and ...

$243,000 for future economic damages (because he moved to Florida and he is not in a position to take his job back with the Philly schools)

TOTAL JURY AWARD:   $2,970,000

          In addition, the plaintiff's attorneys expect to file a claim for legal fees for the cost of respresenting the claimants.  Legal fees could be as much as $500,000!

          Thus, the Philadelphia School District wasted almost 3.5 million dollars of scarce education funds because of the racially discriminatory acts of Kimberly Sangster, the black procurement officer of the Philly schools who said, on the record, that "there are too many white guys in this department."

Last known link (printer friendly):
http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/13445527.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp

Non-printer friendly link:
http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/13445527.htm


Headline:  'Reverse Discrimination Claim Brings $3M From Phila. Federal Jury
(excerpted from the Law.Com article on 12-21-05)

          "A federal jury has awarded nearly $3 million in a 'reverse discrimination' suit against the Philadelphia School District brought by four white males who claim they were fired by an African-American woman who had complained there were 'too many white male managers in this department.'

          "In the trial, lead plaintiffs' attorney Michael D. Homans of Flaster Greenberg in Cherry Hill, N.J., set out to prove that his clients were fired only because they were white several months after Kimberly Sangster, an African-American woman, was hired as the district's chief procurement officer.

          "Homans said that during Sangster's first day on the job in November 2002, she asked plaintiff Robert Johnston if he was 'going to have a hard time working for a black woman.'

          "Within her first month, Homans said, Sangster complained that there were too many white male managers in the department, and later told Johnston that 'Caucasian managers' offices are too big.  I'm going to do something about it.'

Phila Schools Index:
UP: Phila. Summary Summary
UP: Phila. Inquirer 12-20-05 News: Philly Inquirer 12-20-05
* News: Law.Com 12-21-05
Plaintiff's Lawyer Lawyer for Plaintiffs
UP: Table of Awards TABLE: Amount of Award

          "Ultimately, Homans said, Sangster fired Johnston and three other white men -- Jack Zubris, Edward Pilosi and Peter Bracchi -- and claimed that it was part of a cost-cutting reorganization of the department.

          "But Homans told the jury that Sangster's explanations for the terminations were false, and that the evidence showed that she had not eliminated a 'layer' of management, as she claimed.  Instead, Homans said, the evidence showed that Sangster grew the department from 25 employees to 30, and that the first seven employees she hired were African-American.

          "Homans also told the jury to reject Sangster's claim that she was trying to hire workers with an 'elite skill set' because the evidence showed that the new workers had significantly less experience in procurement work, and that some had never worked for a school district.

          "In its verdict on Friday, the jury found that race was the motivating factor in the terminations of all four men, and that three of the men also suffered retaliation when the school district refused to consider them for other jobs because they had already started the process of pursuing a race discrimination suit.

          "The jury awarded each man $500,000 in emotional damages and awards of back pay ranging from $71,000 to $302,000.

          "[Plaintiff's attorney] Homans said U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III will also order that three of the men be reinstated to their jobs.

          "But because plaintiff Bracchi has moved to Florida to take a new job, reinstatement was not an option, Homans said.   As a result, [Bracchi's] award also included $243,000 in 'front pay' [future damages] in lieu of reinstatement [of his job].

          "The total verdict was $2,960,378, Homans said, and the cost to the school district will also include an attorney fee award to the plaintiffs that could top $500,000.

          "Sangster was the first witness called in the trial, and in his questioning, Homans set out to discredit her claim that her sole motivation in making the lay-off decisions was economics.

          "Instead of cutting costs, [plaintiff's attorney] Homans told the jury, [Kimberly] Sangster had actually increased the department's budget.   Within a year, Homans said, Sangster had hired about 10 new workers in the department, and the first seven were African-American.

          "Homans also told the jury that Sangster had increased a section of the office that specialized in procuring from minority- and women-owned businesses from one employee to four.

          The school district's defense attorney was Carl E. Singley, a prominent black lawyer.   According to the Law.Com article, Singley told the court that since the department was already "populated almost exclusively by white males, it was inevitable that any reorganization would result in the layoff of some white males."

Last known link (printer friendly):
http://www.law.com/jsp/printerfriendly.jsp?c=LawArticle&t=PrinterFriendlyArticle&cid=1135073111108

Non-printer friendly link:
http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1135073111108


Attorney Michael D. Homans and his firm, Flaster/Greenberg, won this case for equal treatment under the law without regard to race!

U.S. Mail Address:

Michael D. Homans
Flaster/Greenberg P.C.
1810 Chapel Avenue West
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002-4606

Phone: (856) 661-1900

Contact Form:
http://www.flastergreenberg.com/
contact/index.cfm

Web Site:
http://www.flastergreenberg.com/


END Case 46:
Four White Employees of Philadelphia Schools WIN Reverse Discrimination Suit!

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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.