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Court Rules in Favor of White Administrator

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A federal appeals court has reinstated a jury verdict in favor of a white administrator in Arkansas who was demoted by a majority-black school board.

The case stems from a 2007 shift on the Lee County, Ark., school board from majority white to majority black members. Soon after, Superintendent Wayne Thompson and finance coordinator Sharon Sanders—the district's only white administrators—were demoted.

Ms. Sanders eventually resigned and sued the district and three board members, alleging race discrimination and constructive discharge, meaning an employer created intolerable working conditions.

A jury found in favor of Ms. Sanders, awarding her $10,000 on the race-bias charge, some $61,000 in wages and benefits on the constructive-discharge claim, and $8,000 in punitive damages against the three black board members named in the suit.

But on motions by the defendants, the trial judge set aside the jury's verdict and award on the constructive-discharge claim and the punitive damages.

Ms. Sanders appealed, and in a decision last week, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, unanimously reinstated the constructive-discharge finding and the damages that went with it.

The appeals court also reinstated the punitive-damages claim.

Vol. 31, Issue 23, Page 5

Published in Print: March 7, 2012, as Court Rules in Favor of White Administrator
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