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Park technician loses employment bias suit

A federal jury has rejected a black woman’s allegations that she was fired from her job at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission because of her race and gender.

Hattie Freeman’s claim that she was also fired for reporting an alleged incident of sexual harassment was dismissed prior to the three-day trial that concluded last week in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt before U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day.

Freeman was hired by the M-NCPPC in January 2009 as a recreation/facility management technician, according to the complaint. The probationary period lasted a year, and Freeman received the highest-possible scores on her six-month evaluation, according to court documents.

But soon after that evaluation, Freeman’s “job performance suffered a precipitous decline,” according to a defense motion for summary judgment, and the agency ultimately fired her in February 2010, according to court documents.

“It is patently clear the motivating force behind Plaintiff’s termination was her poor performance during her probationary period, and not any discriminatory animus,” the motion states.

Freeman alleged she “was never informed that her performance was poor and was constantly told otherwise,” and was “never given an opportunity to improve her performance,” according to the complaint.

However, lawyers for the M-NCPPC submitted into evidence a dozen emails and letters between Freeman and her supervisors, and between her supervisors, concerning Freeman’s job performance.

“There was a complete lack of evidence of racial discrimination,” said Tracey Ann Harvin, associate general counsel for M-NCPPC.

The jury of five women and one man deliberated for six hours before coming to a verdict last Thursday, according to Harvin.

One of Freeman’s lawyers, Sharon Ingrid Theodore-Lewis, said an appeal is being considered based on Day’s handling of a juror’s question during deliberations.

The juror wanted to know if Freeman’s lawyers had asked her, while she was on the witness stand, whether she had been discriminated against. Day responded that Freeman had not been asked that question.

“We objected to the answer of the question without further instruction,” said Theodore-Lewis, of The Law Offices of Sharon Theodore-Lewis and Associates PC in Lanham.

FREEMAN V. MARYLAND NATIONAL CAPITAL PARK AND PLANNING COMMISSION ET AL.

Court:

U.S. District Court, Greenbelt

Case No.:

8:11-cv-02894-CBD

Judge:

U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day

Outcome:

Defense verdict

Dates:

Incident: February 2010

Suit filed: Oct. 11, 2011

Verdict: Oct. 3, 2013

Plaintiffs’ Attorney:

Sharon Ingrid Theodore-Lewis of Sharon Ingrid Theodore-Lewis and Associates PC in Lanham and Richard E. Patrick of Jordan Patrick and Cooley LLP in Fairfax, Va.

Defendant’s Attorney:

Tracey Ann Harvin, associate general counsel at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission

Count:

Discrimination