A state court of appeals in Nashville this week affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of two former La Vergne city employees who raise claims of racial discrimination.
In the late summer of 2009, a Rutherford County Chancery Court jury awarded Eric Boone and Anthony Corder $300,000 each on claims other employees retaliated against them after they complained of racial discrimination in the workplace.
According to the two men’s complaint, the city terminated Boone’s employment. Corder, who eventually resigned, claimed he was the subject of a hostile work environment. The jury awarded him an extra $50,000 on that claim.
Attorneys for La Vergne appealed the verdict arguing the costs awarded were excessive and the chancery court had erred in allowing certain evidence to be submitted.
The court of appeals found that certain testimony was admitted erroneously but that the error was harmless to the outcome of the trial. It otherwise affirmed the chancery verdict.
The next option for the city would be to petition the Tennessee Supreme Court to hear another appeal in the case.
Kathy Tyson, public relations director for La Vergne, would not comment on the appellate court ruling but said city leaders will meet soon to discuss the next step.
“Our board will be meeting with the attorneys in an executive session with a date to be determined,” Tyson said.
Both Corder, who is African-American, and Boone, his white co-worker at the city’s sewer department, claimed other city employees retaliated against them for complaining of workplace racial discrimination and filing claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The two first raised their concerns within the city in July 2007 before filing the EEOC complaint in February 2008.
According to court filings, the jury heard testimony during the trial stating that a coworker told Corder “you must not realize what color you are” after Corder mentioned running for mayor.
A female employee, according to testimony, told another employee “she didn’t think it was right that we get off on some black person day and we don’t even get off on President’s Day.” Another employee also told a black employee “Happy James Earl Ray Day” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Murfreesboro attorneys Kerry Knox and Thomas Castelli represented Boone and Corder in the case.
“Our guys went through a lot and so I feel like it vindicates them, and so I’m pleased for them,” Knox said.
Justice Andy D. Bennett delivered the opinion of the court with justices Patricia J. Cottrell and Richard H. Dinkins joining in the decision.