August 20, 2015
United States District Court Judge Theodore D. Chuang’s Memorandum
Jury trial is scheduled for April 5, 2016.
Don Howerton is employed by Prince George’s County Public Schools. The majority of Prince George’s County Public School System employees are African American. Mr. Howerton is Caucasian.
From 1998 through June 2013, Mr. Howerton’s annual job performance evaluations were stellar. His job performance has consistently been rated “outstanding”. In the comment section of his 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 annual job performance evaluations, the evaluator wrote: “Mr. Howerton has a positive attitude and works well with others in striving to meet department goals”; “Mr. Howerton has a positive attitude. He has gained the respect of his supervisors and co-workers”; “Mr. Howerton has gained the respect of his supervisors and co-workers”; and, “Mr. Howerton has earned the respect of co-workers and senior leadership”, respectively. Mr. Howerton worked well with his co-workers and supervisors, most of whom are African American.
Failure to Promote
On March 23, 2012, despite being prequalified and placed on the list of applicants to be interviewed by Human Resources, Carl Belcher, who is African American, refused to interview Mr. Howerton for the Facility Coordinator position (Grade 28). Mr. Belcher said he had someone else in mind. And, an African American candidate was selected for the position.
On March 28, 2012, Mr. Howerton told Mr. Belcher that he had complained to his union about not being interviewed for the Facility Coordinator position.
On August 8, 2012, Mr. Howerton contacted his union and filed a grievance against Mr. Belcher.
On August 28, 2012 Mr. Belcher stopped Mr. Howerton in the hallway in front of other employees and openly questioned him about his grievance. Mr. Belcher’s tone and demeanor were threatening. When Mr. Howerton began to answer, Mr. Belcher turned his back on Mr. Howerton and said “Oh, I know how to handle this now, I got you now”.
On September 5, 2012, Mr. Howerton met with Acting Chief Operating Officer Monica Goldson concerning his grievance against Mr. Belcher. Mr. Belcher and Mr. Howerton’s union representative were also present at the meeting. Mr. Howerton told Ms. Goldson that Mr. Belcher was discriminating against him, that he was concerned about retaliation, and that he was seeking legal advice.
Ms. Goldson never initiated an investigation and no corrective action was taken against Mr. Belcher.
On January 10, 2013, Mr. Howerton filed a race discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Mr. Belcher.
On February 15, 2013, Mr. Howerton met again with Acting Chief Operating Officer Monica Goldson concerning his grievance against Mr. Belcher. Again, Mr. Howerton complained to Ms. Goldson that Mr. Belcher was retaliating against him and that he was seeking legal advice. Ms. Goldson became angry and stated “you can try that if you want”.
On March 8, 2013, EEOC sent Mr. Howerton a Right to Sue letter. However, he decided at that time not to file a lawsuit.
In March 2013, Mr. Howerton complained to Elizabeth Davis, PGCPS’s Compliance Officer. He complained to her about Mr. Belcher’s harassment. Mr. Howerton told Ms. Davis that Mr. Belcher was “papering” his personnel file with derogatory documents.
Ms. Davis explained to Mr. Howerton how to file a written discrimination complaint; however, Ms. Davis encouraged him to speak directly with Mr. Belcher instead of filing a written discrimination complaint.
Following Ms. Davis’ advice, Mr. Howerton spoke to Mr. Belcher about his meeting with Ms. Davis. Mr. Belcher became visibly agitated and asked why he had gone to Ms. Davis. Mr. Belcher warned Mr. Howerton that by complaining, he was digging a “deeper hole” for himself.
On May 2, 2013, Mr. Belcher wrote a letter of reprimand that was placed in Mr. Howerton’s personnel file. Mr. Belcher never notified Mr. Howerton of the letter or its contents. Mr. Howerton became aware of the letter and its content merely by accident. The letter of reprimand falsely accused Mr. Howerton of not meeting deadlines.
On June 20, 2013, Mr. Howerton filed a race discrimination complaint with the Prince George’s County Human Relations Commission (PGCHRC)/Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
On June 27, 2013, Mr. Belcher presented Mr. Howerton with his first evaluation in three years. Mr. Belcher rated Mr. Howerton “Unsatisfactory” in several categories.
In August 2013, Ms. Davis, PGCPS’s Compliance Officer, advised Mr. Howerton to withdraw his PGCHRC/EEOC discrimination complaint. Ms. Davis convinced Mr. Howerton that his effort was futile. On August 14, 2013, Mr. Howerton followed Ms. Davis’ advice and formally withdrew his discrimination complaint. Ms. Davis never initiated an investigation of Mr. Howerton complaint and the Board took no corrective action against Mr. Belcher.
In November 2013, Mr. Howerton requested a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC. On March 19, 2014, EEOC sent him a Notice of Right to Sue. Mr. Howerton filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Board of Education of Prince George’s County in federal court.
Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire