Compensation sought in bias case

2 ex-city school workers ask more than $50,000 apiece after panel rules in their favor

October 25, 2007|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun reporter

Two former city school employees are seeking more than $50,000 apiece in compensatory damages after a city commission ruled that their firings resulted from racial discrimination.

James Kidd Jr. and Adrienne Brown were budget analysts in 2004 when they were fired after joining black co-workers in a complaint filed with the school system. The complaint alleged that blacks were being denied promotions.

Yesterday, Kidd and Brown appeared before the Baltimore Community Relations Commission and asked for compensatory damages to cover lost pay and suffering.

In March 2004, Kidd and Brown jointly filed a discrimination claim with the commission. In April, a hearing examiner, retired Circuit Judge Kenneth L. Johnson, ruled in their favor.

Johnson said he reached the decision after school officials failed to present sufficient evidence in the system's defense.

The commission is an independent body that examines discrimination complaints.

Yesterday's hearing was held so that Johnson could hear testimony from Kidd and Brown on their compensation claim. Johnson has two months to render a decision.

Kidd and Brown were fired in January 2004 and each found jobs paying comparable salaries about six months later, they said at the hearing.

A school system lawyer countered that damages were unnecessary because Kidd and Brown found new jobs relatively soon after being terminated.

Kidd and Brown were among hundreds of school system employees who received pink slips during a financial crisis. Afterward, some longtime black employees complained about young City Hall staffers - some of them white - being placed in high-level positions in the administration of then-schools chief Bonnie S. Copeland.

After the hearing, Kidd said that he and six others had filed a complaint with the system's equal employment officer in 2003 alleging that black workers were not being properly trained, compensated and promoted. Kidd said the system never addressed the complaint and he was subsequently told his job had to be cut.

Kidd said he later discovered that his position was posted at the system's headquarters.

"The chief financial officer told us that our jobs would no longer be budgeted," Kidd said. "But to our dismay, we found out two days later that our job was being posted on the board to be filled again."

Brown told a reporter that she was among the staff members who filed the complaint with the system in 2003, but she declined to elaborate. She said she and Kidd were fired the same day.

After the hearing, the school system lawyer declined to comment on the case.

Kidd testified that he was forced to move into his sister's house for three months after losing his job. He said he had primary custody of his teenage son and was unable to provide for him.

Kidd told the judge that he needed 20 sessions of psychotherapy to help him cope. Kidd now works for the state. He is seeking about $56,000 in damages.

Brown testified that after her firing she had to take increased medication for anxiety and depression. She now works at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Brown wants about $51,600 in damages.

Once Johnson rules, his decision will go before the agency's five commissioners. If they adopt it, the commission will order the school system to comply.

If the school system fails to comply, the case likely will go to circuit court, a commission spokeswoman said.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

Read the Sun education blog at www.baltimoresun.com/classroom.

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