The U.S. Court of appeals ruled yesterday that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority discriminated against four office workers who contended that they were denied promotions because they are black.
In overturning a lower court decision and reinstating the verdict of a jury that had originally heard the case, the appeals court also upheld the lower court's ruling that the jury erred when it found that discrimination was a systemwide problem at Metro.
Nearly two years ago, a jury awarded a total of $22,000 in damages to four black Metro professionals who had brought a class-action discrimination suit against Metro.
U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Flannery later overturned the verdict, saying that "no reasonable jury" could have concluded from the evidence in the case that Metro had intentionally discriminated against the employes becasue of their race.
In its decision overruling Flannery, however, the three-judge appeals panel found that the "evidence is sufficient to support the jury's verdict."
Charles Fizer, Former head of Metro's consumer assistance branch, had complained that he was discriminated against when Metro refused to grant him salary increases and then fired him, although his performance ratings had been "excellent."
The appeals panel ruled that although there "was no evidence" that Fizer's supervisors were racially motivated, "there was likewise no other explanation...for the supervisors' action against" Fizer.
Alonzo McNair, coordinator for Metro's charter arrangemnts, had alleged that Metro officials elminated his job in order to save the job of a white worker. The appeals panel found that Metro's budget had called for antoher job to be eliminated and that "no explanation was given for the apparent decision by McNair'se supervisors to elminate his position instead."
Metro attorney John C. Swanson said transit officials were considering asking for a rehearing, but that a decision had not been made.