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WASHINGTON v. COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF PHILADELPHI

March 10, 1994

MARTIN WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF PHILADELPHIA COUNTY, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT F. KELLY

 R.F. KELLY, J.

 In December 1990, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ordered the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County to make a "reduction in force" in order to become "fiscally responsible." After a highly-publicized disagreement, the Court of Common Pleas reluctantly decided to comply with the Supreme Court's mandate to reduce its budget and laid off approximately 250 court employees. The lay-offs were the first in the history of the Philadelphia court system.

 Among those laid off was Martin Washington, ("Washington") who filed this case on June 22, 1992. Washington, who is a black male, claimed that his lay-off was motivated by racial discrimination, or was in retaliation for a complaint Washington had filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") nine months prior to his dismissal.

 Washington's complaint contained nine counts. The first four counts were racial discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. C.S.A. § 9555 (a) and (b). *fn1"

 The case proceeded to a jury trial which began on November 1, 1993. One week later, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Washington on his retaliation claim, and awarded him $ 25,000 in damages. The jury decided against Washington on his racial discrimination claim. Washington filed a post-trial motion requesting that the judgment in his favor be amended to reflect nearly $ 90,000 in damages instead, a figure based on Washington's lost wages from the time of his lay-off, and also requested an order reinstating him to his position with the Court of Common Pleas, with appropriate salary and benefits. The Court of Common Pleas responded with a motion for judgment as a matter of law, requesting that the court overturn Washington's verdict on the retaliation claim.

 I. THE TESTIMONY AT TRIAL

 Washington began working with the Philadelphia Municipal Court in 1971, as a clerk. He received a number of promotions through the ranks and eventually became a deputy court administrator, one of two in the municipal court system at that time. N.T. November 2, 1993 at 101-02. In 1986, Washington left the Municipal Court to take a job as director of court operations for the Connecticut Superior Courts. N.T. November 2, 1993 at 104.

 Washington left the position in Connecticut in December 1987 and returned to Philadelphia. He was unsuccessful in attempting to be re-hired by the Municipal Court. N.T. November 2, 1993 at 134-35. After being unemployed for nearly seven months, he was hired by the Court of Common Pleas in June 1988 as a senior supervisor in charge of the Records and Notification Unit of the Pre-Trial Services Division. Uncontested facts P 3-5.

 Washington began reporting to DiGuglielmo, who was critical of his work performance. Some of DiGuglielmo's criticism of Washington's work was verbal, but DiGuglielmo also sent Washington written memos, copies of which were sent to Johnson. DiGuglielmo told Washington in writing that he had not completed several assigned tasks on time, or at all. Among these were assignments to dispose of old files; to clean out the "burn room"; to prepare a memo establishing a plan to "rotate" entry-level employees from one department to another; and to set up a training class for newly-hired investigators. N.T. November 3, 1993 at 75-85. DiGuglielmo also criticized Washington for failing to comply with the policy on sick leave. N.T. November 3, 1993 at 85.

 Washington responded to these criticisms with a lengthy memo to DiGuglielmo, copied to Johnson, dated October 18, 1989, complaining that DiGuglielmo's "actions depict covert racist overtones." Defendant's Exhibit 14-B; N.T. November 3, 1993 at 113-14. At trial, asked to describe the nature of DiGuglielmo's actions, Washington said that there was "ongoing harassment, deliberate attempts to destroy my character, constantly scrutinized about my work, basically being on my case every day about whatever he felt like being on, attacking me, accusing, making accusations about me." N.T. November 2, 1993 at 114.

 Washington's memo stated, in part, "Please be advised that this written response is to inform you of the issues, concerns and ramifications generated by your written memos' (sic) to date in-concert with the long-standing harassment that has been directed towards me both verbally and in writing . . . My rights both Equal and Civil and the rights of my family shall always be protected . . . I am advising you of my intent to explore all legal means and resources available to me in-order to seek redress and relief." (emphasis in original) Defendant's Exhibit 14-B; N.T. November 2, 1993 at 55-59.

 The following day, October 19, 1990, Washington filed a complaint with the PHRC and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission ("EEOC") alleging that he had been "discriminated against because of his race and age by harassing with disciplinary memos with an intent to destroy ...


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