Dan Herbeck, Buffalo News, August 23, 2007
Mark Pasternak said he lost his state job helping troubled youths because he couldn’t stand working under a black boss who called him racist names like “cracker,” “polack” and “stupid white boy.”
After a rare reverse racial discrimination trial in Buffalo’s federal court, a jury Tuesday awarded Pasternak $150,000. Jurors found that his former boss, Tommy E. Baines, discriminated against him racially and created a hostile working environment.
Federal court officials said they could not recall any reverse discrimination case in Buffalo resulting in a larger monetary verdict. Most such cases wind up being settled or dismissed before they ever go to trial.
A seven-member all-white jury delivered the verdict after a two-week trial and almost 10 hours of deliberations. U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott presided.
Pasternak was subjected to three years of cruel abuse from Baines, a veteran supervisor with the agency formerly known as the state Division for Youth, according to Pasternak’s attorney, David J. Seeger.
The abuse came in the form of race-based slurs, job sabotage and crude insults that Baines made about Pasternak in front of co-workers, according to court papers and testimony.
“You’re a white boy, and I don’t like white boys,” Pasternak quoted Baines as telling him. “Handle it.”
“He said that to me more than once, and he said many other things like that over the years I worked for him,” Pasternak told The Buffalo News. “He called me cracker, polack, Paster-rat and stupid white boy. . . . I was sick to my stomach.”
Pasternak said his boss also harassed him by removing documents from his desk and changing the locks on doors and filing cabinets that Pasternak needed access to.
The state conducted an internal investigation into Pasternak’s allegations in 1998, court records show, and the investigation resulted in a $2,000 fine against Baines. But he was allowed to continue working as a supervisor.
When Baines took the witness stand, he was never asked whether he had called Pasternak “white boy” or any other derogatory names.
Pasternak testified that Baines did make such remarks, repeatedly.