Judge rejects 18-year-old discrimination suit


A Baltimore Circuit Court judge rejected yesterday a discrimination suit by the city's Community Relations Commission against another city agency, ruling that the commission took too long handling the 18-year-old complaint of a former city worker.

Judge Thomas E. Noel ruled that the commission "failed to exercise due diligence" in waiting until 1993 to issue an order directing the city housing department to hire Denver Johnson as a housing inspector.

Johnson, a former temporary housing inspector, filed a discrimination complaint with the commission June 16, 1980, alleging that he was denied a $20,982 full-time inspector's position because of his sex and that the job went to a less-qualified woman.

Noel said yesterday he could find no reason why the commission waited 13 years to issue an order on Johnson's behalf.

The commission's Sept. 30, 1993, order directed the housing department to hire Johnson and give him back pay for the 13 years he went without the position.

"There are no legitimate explanations presented either in the Court record, nor by the litigants as to the 13-year delay," Noel wrote in a nine-page decision yesterday.

Johnson could not be reached last night.

But Alvin O. Gillard, director of the CRC, said the commission has taken a series of legally required steps since 1980 to help Johnson secure the job.

"It's grossly inaccurate and unfair to say it took the commission 13 years to act on the case and make a finding. That's just not what happened," Gillard said.

About two months after Johnson filed his complaint, the commission staff made a "finding of probable cause," essentially agreeing with Johnson that evidence of discrimination existed, Gillard said.

The commission then spent five years negotiating with the housing department on Johnson's behalf. When a settlement could not be reached, the commission issued an order directing the housing department to hire Johnson in 1986. It filed suit a year later when that directive was ignored, Gillard said.

That initial suit was delayed in Baltimore Circuit Court for four years before the case was remanded back to the commission, Gillard said.

Pub Date: 3/03/98

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