Court Upholds Jury Award for Fired Police Officer

August 22, 2011 ( – The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a jury award to a former police officer fired for opposing discrimination by his supervisor.

Business Insurance reports the appellate court relied on the U.S. Supreme Court’s “cat’s paw” decision in Vincent E. Staub vs. Proctor Hospital, in which the high court found the termination of Vincent E. Staub by Proctor Hospital resulted from bias of managers other than the one that made the firing decision (see High Court Ruling Creates New Liability for Employers). In the 3rd Circuit case Ray Carnation said he was fired by his Captain for complaining about the racist actions of his immediate supervisor.  

Carnation and several other officers claimed they were assigned to unassisted duty in dangerous neighborhoods in unpleasant weather conditions because they stuck up for their fellow officers who were black, against racist remarks and unfair treatment by their supervisor.  According to a previous court opinion, the Captain sided with the supervisor, saying to Carnation, “How dare you accuse Sergeant Maroney of being unfair to the black officers?”, and telling him if he made an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint he would make Carnation’s life a living nightmare.  

The court previously said, “The message was clear – opposition to Maroney’s racial discrimination needed to stop, and Colarulo was going to make it stop by silencing these officers rather than by disciplining or removing Maroney.”  

Business Insurance said the employer claimed Carnation was dismissed for insubordination and neglect of duty, and a police board of inquiry found him guilty, according to Business Insurance. He sued the city, accusing it of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A jury subsequently returned a $2 million verdict in his favor, which later was reduced to $555,000.   

“In the words of Staub, a reasonable jury could conclude that (the supervisor’s) animus bore a direct and substantial relation to (Mr.) Carnation’s termination and that the PBI’s recommendation was not independent and was foreseeable,” the appeals court ruled, according to Business Insurance.  

The case is Michael McKenna et al. vs. City of Philadelphia et al.