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State employee charges reverse discrimination Worker claims he was moved to make room for black man


Charles C. "Mickey" Hooper Jr. reports to work at 7:30 a.m. each weekday at the Towson headquarters of the Baltimore County Department of Social Services. There, in his basement office, he opens his mail, returns telephone calls and reads about staff training and development. Sometimes, he goes to the University of Baltimore library to do additional reading.

For this, he makes slightly less than $50,000 a year, the salary of a classified state employee who has reached Grade 19 on the 21-grade pay scale.

Some people might be thrilled with this undemanding assignment. Mr. Hooper is not one of them. In a lawsuit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, he charged the state Department of Human Resources and Secretary Carolyn W. Colvin with reverse discrimination, alleging he was moved out of his post as director of personnel to make room for a black man.

The lawsuit further alleges that only black applicants were invited toapply for Mr. Hooper's job, bypassing normal hiring procedures within the state merit system.

Clarence Brown, a DHR spokesman, said the agency cannot comment on litigation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hooper remains on the state payroll because he is a classified employee who cannot be dismissed without cause. But he has no title, no staff and no job description.

If he had been given personnel-related duties in the Towson office, he never would have complained, Mr. Hooper said. But he isn't sure how he can continue in his make-work assignment.

"I can't throw away a 20-year career," Mr. Hooper said earlier this week. "With three years' credit for military service, I've got six to seven years to go to retiring with 30 years' service. I can't just quit. I can't even go to another state agency because I would lose all my seniority."

In the mid-1980s, two white male employees brought similar suits against DHR, which is the agency in charge of local social services departments. The state settled the cases out of court for $55,000.

Mr. Hooper is familiar with these cases because he was an expert witness -- for the department. During his nine-year tenure as director of personnel, he often was called on to testify or give depositions in such cases.

In an organizational chart of DHR, Mr. Hooper's old job would have fallen on the third tier, below Secretary Colvin and her two deputy secretaries. There are about 20 managers at Mr. Hooper's former level.

According to the lawsuit, his transfer occurred in December 1991, about three months after Ms. Colvin announced at a staff meeting that she wanted to hire more black men. Ms. Colvin's assistant, Lois Whitaker, a co-defendant in the lawsuit, reportedly called one of Mr. Hooper's staff members and told the person to relay the news of his transfer.

On Dec. 17, Mr. Hooper reported to his new assignment. At first, he was given time to try to find a job, within or outside the department. Then he took all his accrued leave. In February, he reported back to the Towson office.

Since that time, he has had only two assignments, Mr. Hooper said: writing an employee handbook and putting together a list of recommendations for personnel practices.

For the past month, he has had no assigned tasks.

He supervises no one and "is virtually isolated from any %o significant contact with other employees of DHR or Baltimore County Department of Social Services," the lawsuit states.

His supervisor is two grades below him on the pay scale.

L But it was the lack of work that Mr. Hooper found stressful.

"Initially, it bothered me," Mr. Hooper said. "I inquired several times [about my duties]. I said, 'Come on, let me do this, let me do that.' I was just never permitted and no reason was given. I thought, 'Once this cools down, there will be some recognition of how they could use me.' "

Meanwhile, Robert Hagans replaced Mr. Hooper on Dec. 18. In effect, "the state is paying $100,000 a year for the position Mr. Hooper filled," said Barry C. Steel, Mr. Hooper's attorney.

The lawsuit seeks $1.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages and asks that Mr. Hooper be reinstated in his former job.

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