On June 10, 2002, WE WON Morgan v. Amtrak!!!! In a historic decision, Justice Clarence Thomas and the United States Supreme Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in favor of Abner Morgan, Jr., an African-American electrician who suffered racial discrimination, racial harassment and retaliation at Amtrak’s Oakland Yard.
To hear the oral argument at the Supreme Court.
On May 27, 2004, WE WON AGAIN!!!! A federal jury in San Francisco awarded $500,000 to Mr. Morgan in Morgan v. Amtrak. Mr. Morgan worked at Amtrak’s Oakland maintenance yard from 1990 until 1995. During his employment at the yard, Amtrak’s supervisors discriminated against Mr. Morgan and numerous other African-American employees in training opportunities and work assignments, and singled out anyone who complained about the unfair treatment with harsh disciplinary actions.
In 1998, a jury of four women and four men heard the case in San Francisco, presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston. In rendering a verdict for Amtrak, the jury also delivered a note which criticized Amtrak’s managers for “grossly unprofessional and questionable ethical conduct.” The jury also found that the response from Amtrak’s EEO Office was “woefully remiss.”
In 2000, the Ninth Circuit reversed the jury’s verdict and ordered a new trial. The Ninth Circuit directed Judge Illston to allow the jury to consider all of the evidence of a hostile environment and retaliation which occurred throughout Mr. Morgan’s employment as part of a continuing violation. The Court held that the evidence at trial established “a series or pattern of discrimination, retaliation and hostile environment that started nearly contemporaneously with Morgan’s employment and continued throughout his tenure.”
The Supreme Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit decision with respect to Mr. Morgan’s hostile environment claim and the order for a new trial, but held that the continuing violation doctrine cannot be applied to discrete acts. The Supreme Court’s decision means that any employee who thinks that he or she has been a victim of discrimination or retaliation must promptly file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) every time something happens. The message for employees is to file your EEOC complaint early and often.
The Supreme Court’s decision represents a decisive victory for victims of persistent or pervasive harassment in the workplace. Those who can show a hostile environment will be entitled to recover damages for all of the conduct and the harm suffered.
And most importantly, Abner Morgan, Jr. won the right to have a fair trial and finally claimed the victory!!!