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Jonathan Wharton, Nassau jail guard awarded $420G over co-worker retaliation,
says workplace still hostile
22, 2014 8:48 PM
By CANDICE RUUD email@example.com
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A Nassau County correction officer who sued over alleged
discrimination and convinced a federal jury he was a victim of retaliation claims he still faces a hostile workplace.
The 26-year officer, Jonathan P. Wharton, said a subordinate officer
used "racist slurs" and threatened him physically in an incident last week inside the East Meadow jail.
Wharton, 61, said resentment against him has been building since a federal
jury awarded him $420,000 on Sept. 17.
STORYJury awards $420G to ex-jail
Wharton said he was supervising breakfast Tuesday in the jail's Behavior Modification Unit,
where inmates with behavioral and social issues are housed, when the officer disobeyed his order to secure the dormitory.
"I had to take charge and secure the dorm myself," Wharton
said. "When he came out of the dorm after the dorm was secured, he came to me in a threatening manner and used . . .
Wharton, who is black, said the officer also blocked
his path and threatened to hit him.
unfolded in front of inmates, which could have sparked a riot or planted the seed for a dangerous situation later, said Wharton
and his attorney, Frederick K. Brewington of Hempstead.
working in a very hostile environment, already knowing that anything could happen dealing with inmates," Wharton said.
"I should feel secure working in that environment. Unfortunately, I don't feel that same safety and security now."
Brewington sent a letter to the county's attorneys on Thursday asking
that action be taken and warning that if Wharton "is faced with further acts of abuse and retaliation . . . we will seek
the intervention of the court." The letter demands the county "immediately address this matter and advise us what
action will be taken."
County attorney Carnell Foskey
said in a statement Friday that "a full investigation is being conducted." A motion to set aside the September verdict
has also been filed.
The jury found that Wharton had been retaliated against
by five county employees in supervisory roles after he made formal complaints that he was being discriminated against.
Wharton claimed that after he complained about discrimination he was
written up for several disciplinary infractions. In 2001, Wharton was removed from his position in the public information
office and moved to a midnight shift as retaliation, according to his lawsuit.
The suit, filed in January 2010, also claimed he was a victim of racial and religious discrimination, but
the jury rejected those claims.
Federal jury awards $420G to former Nassau jail chaplain Jonathan Wharton
A federal jury has awarded a Nassau County correction officer $420,000
after it found that the county retaliated against him after he lodged complaints alleging discrimination.
Though Jonathan P. Wharton's lawsuit against the county, filed in
January 2010, also claimed he had been racially and religiously discriminated against by his employer, the jury of seven did
not find in his favor on those claims.
The jury found
that Wharton, 61, a Nassau correction officer since 1988, had been retaliated against specifically by five county employees
in positions of power after he made formal complaints that he was facing discrimination.
On Wednesday, after five hours of deliberation, the jury in U.S. District Court in Central
Islip ordered that Wharton be paid $375,000 for pain and suffering and $45,000 for punitive damages.
Nassau County Attorney Carnell Foskey said the county plans to appeal the verdict, according
to county spokesman Brian Nevin.
Frederick K. Brewington of Hempstead, said after his client complained of discrimination, he was issued several disciplinary
notes, and was "falsely accused of breaking rules." According to the complaint, in 2001, Wharton, who is black,
was removed from his "prestigious position" in the public information office and moved to a midnight shift as retaliation
for complaining about discrimination.
in the mid-2000s, his client was also told he could no longer serve as a jail chaplain, which he had been doing on a volunteer
basis since the 1990s. "They began to strip him of that, including taking away his ability and his right to use the chapel
for prayer when it was available," Brewington said.
According to the complaint, Wharton felt he had endured a pattern of discrimination in his job as a correction officer
and his role as a chaplain and counselor since the mid-1990s at the East Meadow facility.
U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert presided over the trial.
What is Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action in the
Discrimination based on protected traits are prohibited by
Equal opportunity eEmployment and affirmative aAction have different and opposite applications in that Equal opportunity
eEmployment forbids discrimination based upon certain traits whereas affirmative action is the favoring of people based upon
traits for past discrimination and is intended to counteract discrimination.
Equal employment opportunity law is the result of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants based upon race, sex, national origin
or religion. According to "Black's Law Dictionary," affirmative action is the act of favoring a race or ethnicity
to remedy the effects of past discrimination.
Employers are liable
for employment discrimination under Title VII only if the adverse employment action is based upon the traits protected by
Title VII . It is the burden of the defendant to prove that the action was not based on the trait. Affirmative action as a
defense can only be used if its narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.
Complaints against employers for discrimination must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC)
who will investigate and make a determination whether or not to proceed further.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Affirmative
Action encourage diversity.
Both the Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action are workplace policies
that seek to reduce discrimination in business. The United States federal government instituted both programs in an effort
to encourage diversity in corporate hiring and promotion. However, the programs differ in their goals, requirements and administration
The Equal Employment Opportunity law requires that employers evaluate all job applicants fairly,
without using their race, ethnicity, sex, age, religion or physical disability as a means for discrimination against them.
Once a worker is hired, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act also mandates that employers extend job training and promotions
equally to him, regardless of any physical differences or personal beliefs he may possess.
Affirmative Action is a proactive method
of hiring that encourages employers to seek out members of historically oppressed groups, including individuals of minority
races and women, for qualified positions in their companies. In this way, Affirmative Action is a more direct way of ensuring
diversity than the Equal Employment Opportunity law. Corporations that participate in Affirmative Action may also provide
specialized training and assistance to help women and minorities work up to management roles.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, enforces the Equal Employment Opportunity
in workplaces across the United States. This law applies to most companies that employ at least 15 people. When an employee
makes an accusation of discrimination, the EEOC conducts an investigation and may either negotiate a settlement or, in cases
of egregious conduct, file a lawsuit against the company.
Unlike the Equal Employment Opportunity, all
employers are not legally obligated to promote Affirmative Action. The United States Department of Labor requires that its
federal contractors and subcontractors participate in the Affirmative Action program each year. Inside the Department, the
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs enforces the program's policies for participating contractors.
Affirmative action is one of the most effective tools for redressing
the injustices caused by our nation's historic discrimination against people of color and women, and for leveling what has
long been an uneven playing field. A centuries-long legacy of racism and sexism has not been eradicated despite the gains
made during the civil rights era. Avenues of opportunity for those previously excluded remain far too narrow. We need affirmative
action now more than ever.
Your support helps the ACLU fight racial
inequality and defend a broad range of civil liberties.
According to 1998 U.S. Department of Labor statistics,
blacks are almost twice as likely as whites to be unemployed. The unemployment rate is also higher for Latinos than for whites.
Blacks and Latinos generally earn far less than whites. In 2000, the median weekly earning for blacks was $459; for Latinos,
it was $395. In that period, average income for whites was $590. Workers of color are still concentrated in the less well-paying,
unskilled sector. In 1993, black and Latino men were half as likely as whites to be employed as managers or professionals
and much more likely to be employed as machine operators and laborers. Barriers to equality also remain for women.
ACLU Position Paper: Affirmative Action (2000 PDF): Affirmative action is one of the most effective
tools for redressing the injustices caused by our nation’s historic discrimination against people of color and women,
and for leveling what has long been an uneven playing field. A centuries-long legacy of racism and sexism has not been eradicated
despite the gains made during the civil rights era. Avenues of opportunity for those previously excluded remain far too narrow.
We need affirmative action now more than ever.
Protect Fairness and Equality (2008 PDF): In the United States, access to the American Dream is
often framed as a race in which the swiftest runners win. Critics of affirmative action say that such policies give some runners
an unfair head start in an otherwise fair race. At the same time, many supporters of affirmative action say we need these
policies to assist “disabled” runners. In their focus on the runners rather than the track, both of these perspectives
miss the point. Affirmative action isn’t about advancing “disabled” runners, but about repairing damaged
lanes and removing the barriers that block the pathways to opportunity that only some runners face. Policies that promote
inclusion, such as affirmative action, are designed to equalize the conditions of an otherwise unfair race and give everyone
a fair chance to compete.
A Definition of Fairness: Who Supports Affirmative Action? (2008 PDF): According to a 2007 report by the Pew Research Center,
support for affirmative action among the American public has actually increased substantially in recent years, climbing
from 58% in 1995 to 70% in 2007.1