ILNews

Court upholds discrimination claims in coroner's office

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the finding that an African-American Marion County Coroner took action against his white chief deputy coroner because of race, but ordered a reduction in the amount of compensatory damages the deputy coroner could receive.

John Linehan was stripped of certain duties as chief deputy coroner and eventually fired by then-coroner Dr. Kenneth Ackles. Ackles chose Linehan as his chief deputy coroner when he was elected. Ackles wanted to find a way to have more African-Americans work in the office.

Issues arose between Ackles and Linehan when Linehan wanted to discipline Alfarena Ballew, an African-American female deputy coroner, who was late to meetings, crime scenes, and the hospital. Ackles did not want to discipline her. Linehan prepared a written reprimand. Ballew later sent an anonymous letter to members of the City-County Council accusing Linehan of ghost employment.

Other incidents occurred that led to Linehan filing a complaint with human resources that he worked in a hostile environment. That same day, Ackles told Linehan he was going to make a change in chief deputies and later stripped him of some duties. Ackles fired Linehan in December 2005.

An administrative law judge and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found the coroner’s office took action against Linehan based on his race and in retaliation for an internal complaint Linehan filed against Ackles. He received front and back pay, attorney’s fees, and $200,000 in compensatory damages.

The 7th Circuit granted the coroner’s office’s petition for review and affirmed the findings of discrimination and retaliation weren’t erroneous in Marion County Coroner’s Office v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and John Linehan, No. 09-3595. The judges did reduce the $200,000 compensatory damages award because of a lack of evidence supporting that amount. The testimony was brief and only indicated that Linehan had undergone weekly therapy sessions for several months for situational depression, wrote Judge Terence Evans.

Although the coroner’s office argued Linehan should receive no award, the judges found some measure of compensatory damages for emotional distress is warranted. They suggested $20,000, but if the respondents don’t consent to the remittitur, there should be a new hearing on the issue.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

ADVERTISEMENT