PLF Wins Victory in Race Discrimination Case

Pacific Legal Foundation, Jul. 6

San Francisco,CA; July 06, 2004: Pacific Legal Foundation today announced its landmark legal victory in state court on behalf of race equality for all Californians.

On July 2, PLF, assisted by one of Sacramento’s premier civil rights attorneys, Andrea Miller (of Nageley, Meredith & Miller), prevailed in San Mateo County Superior Court over the City and County of San Francisco, which had implemented a discriminatory hiring program at San Francisco International Airport. The verdict in Cheresnik, McGoldrick, and Harman v. City and County of San Francisco was 11-1 in favor of Allen Harman, an airport employee who had applied for, but had been denied, promotion to a supervisory position on the basis of race.

PLF staff attorney Paul Beard stated, “With the jury’s verdict, it should be clear to the City and County of San Francisco that discrimination in employment decisions on the basis of race is not acceptable, no matter what the justification.”

The suit charged that the City and County of San Francisco, the Airport Commissioners, and the Airport Director had created and implemented a Diversity Staffing Plan that instituted race and gender quotas for hiring and promotional decisions.

The airport determined that Harman would be the next candidate out of the pool to be promoted. Harman’s promised promotion never materialized. In exercising oversight over the hiring process, the City’s Equal Employment Opportunity manager relied on the Diversity Staffing Plan and determined that the applicant pool itself—consisting entirely of white candidates—was insufficiently diverse in representing the local community’s demographics. The pool was dissolved to create a new more diverse application pool.

Despite his previous standing in the first application process as being qualified and “next in line,” Harman was not permitted even to interview during the second process on the pretense that he was not sufficiently experienced. The airport eventually hired a minority applicant for the position that Harman had been promised. Sixteen months after being denied the provisional appointment on the basis of race, Harman finally obtained a permanent civil service appointment to the same position through a color-blind, merit-based process.

Harman sued the City and County of San Francisco, the Airport Commissioners, and the Airport Director on the ground that his equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment were violated when he was denied a promotion on the basis of race. The suit further charged that, as the official policy of the city, the Diversity Staffing Plan was the moving force behind the decision to deny him the promotion on racial grounds. He claimed economic damages from lost promotional opportunities, along with noneconomic damages from emotional distress.

After a near two-week jury trial, and only three hours of deliberation, the jury found that the city was liable to Harman. It also awarded Harman economic and emotional distress damages. According to Mr. Beard, “reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees will be recoverable as a result of the victory.”

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