A federal judge yesterday overturned a jury's verdict of last September that held that the Washington Metro subway and bus agency had discriminated against its black office workers.
U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Flannery, in a 23-page opinion, said that "no reasonable jury" could have concluded from the evidence in the case that Metro had intentionally discriminated against those employes because of their race.
Yesterday, Flannery not only overturned the jury's finding on a class action claim brought on behalf of all black employes, but also set aside individual money awards totaling $22,000 that the jury had made to four individual workers.
Metro attorney John C. Swanson yesterday said that Flannery's decision was a "clear vindication of Metro's management practices and policies." The black employes can take an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Flannery noted that when the trial in the case was concluded, he told lawyers on both sides that the evidence was legally insufficient to show that Metro had discriminated against the employes. In his opinion yesterday, however, the judge said that he felt obligated by rulings of the federal appeals court to permit the case to go to the jury anyway.
Flannery said in his decision yesterday that three of the four employes who won individual awards failed to prove that they were victims of race discrimination and said the fourth had not demonstrated that he was eligible for the job he claimed he was denied.
For example, the jury had awarded $8,000 in damages to employe Alonzo McNair. But Flannery said that McNair's history of career advancement at Metro "overwhelmingly points to a complete lack of discrimination against him." McNair is a coordinator of Metro charter operations.
In the case of employe Charles Fizer, a former supervisor of Metro's consumer assistance branch, the jury had awarded $10,000 in damages. But Flannery, in setting aside that award, said that the evidence clearly showed that Metro had "ample legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons" for dismissing him from his job.