ANNAPOLIS, JULY 10 -- The Maryland Court of Special Appeals was critical of the Prince George's County Human Relations Commission today as it reversed the commission's decision in a racial discrimination suit.
A three-judge panel of the state's second highest court overruled a commission finding that Levitz Furniture Corp. was guilty of discrimination when it fired Willie Parks Jr., a salesman who had been with the firm for 11 years.
The commission had ruled that Parks was fired because of a merchandise pricing error he made in November 1982.
It held that the firing constituted discrimination because three white employes were not fired for similar mistakes.
The appeals court reversed that decision, saying that the commission action was arbitrary and had ignored the evidence presented by Levitz.
The court noted that Levitz had shown that Parks had received numerous oral and written reprimands and had repeatedly received performance ratings of "satisfactory-minus" during the 22 months preceding his dismissal.
"Astonishingly, the commission found that Levitz had taken the position that Parks was discharged solely because of the . . . pricing incident. That finding, being directly contrary to the evidence before the commission, is arbitrary," the ruling said.
The court said human relations commissions serve an important function.
"They do not exist, however, to redress wrongs that may befall a member of a protected minority for reasons unrelated to his or her minority status.
"When an administrative agency, such as the Prince George's County Human Relations Commission, loses sight of its proper function, the integrity of all mechanisms for protecting civil rights is compromised," the opinion said.