A U.S. District Court judge has awarded $31,000 in back pay and $7,500 in damages to a 55-year-old Puerto Rican teacher who contended he was denied a promotion to full professor at the University of the District of Columbia because he is Hispanic.
Judge June L. Green ruled that UDC discriminated against Henry Acosta in 1978 because of his national origin and said that the actions of the promotions committee that considered Acosta's application were "colored throughout with bias."
Acosta, a former lieutenant in the New York City Police Department, has taught criminal justice in the university's School of Public and Business Administration since 1974. In addition to retroactive promotion to full professor, back pay plus 6 percent interest and damages (which covered his court costs in bringing the lawsuit), Green said UDC must also pay Acosta's attorney fees.
When Acosta applied for a promotion to full professor in 1978, a committee of three faculty members was to review applications and then submit them to David Chatman, the dean of the school. A memorandum circulated at the time by Chatman also listed the criteria that the committee was to use to evaluate those applying for promotion.
Green found, however, that neither the promotions committee nor Chatman followed the procedures laid out in the memo.
Green said that UDC's position on qualifications for promotions was "filled with contradictions and unexplained exceptions." For example, UDC claimed that in 1978 it wanted all candidates for promotion to have the highest academic degree in their field -- typically a doctorate. But the university also admitted in court records that other criteria were still in effect, allowing promotions to full professor if a candidate had a doctorate or a master's degree and eight years' teaching experience.
Green said the university's promotional procedure "was invalid and discriminatory" and was used to discriminate against Acosta.
Acosta, who has a master's degree in public administration and police science as well teaching experience over an 18-year period, "was eminently qualified for promotion to full professor," Green ruled.