Published: May 20, 2011
Publication: The Chief
By David Sims
A Motor Vehicle Operator who charged that he was denied a promotion on racial grounds by his African-American supervisors has won a settlement of $160,000 from the city in a case that dragged on for nine years.
Thomas Aulicino, a District Council 37 Local 983 member who worked for the Department of Homeless Services, initially had his case dismissed by a Federal judge, but that ruling was overturned in September 2009 by the U.S. Court of Appeals.
‘Won’t Promote That White Guy’
Mr. Aulicino said he had been harassed at work before and after he was passed over for promotion in 2002, despite being the most-qualified candidate for the job. When he sued the city, the harassment increased, he charged.
“It was going to go to trial; the evidence was pretty damning,” Mr. Aulicino’s attorney, Arthur Schwartz said in a phone interview. “There was a note from the supervisor in charge of promotions saying, ‘I’m not giving a promotion to that white guy.’” He identified the supervisor as Frank John.
City attorney Eric Eichenholtz, a senior counsel in the Law Department’s Labor & Employment Law Division, said in a statement, “The city agreed to a settlement in which Mr. Aulicino has agreed to retire from city employment to bring closure to seven years of litigation. In the context of all information available to us, there was no basis for disciplining Frank John.”
The settlement with the city includes a retroactive promotion to the Motor Vehicle Supervisor position, all back pay and overtime opportunities that came with it, and pay for a three-month period Mr. Aulicino took off because of emotional distress over his harassment. It also includes $98,000 in damages.
“In a denial of promotion case, to get $160,000 is fairly unusual,” Mr. Schwartz said. “It was a pretty strong case that he was better-qualified than the other guy. And then what went on afterwards, it would have been risky for the city [to go to trial]. He just was treated horribly.”
The settlement includes the provision that Mr. Aulicino can retire this month, the earliest date at which he is eligible to retire under the 55/25 retirement option. He will receive his back pay a day before retirement so that it has the maximum beneficial effect on his pension.