Lebau & Neuworth has successfully represented a member of the Baltimore City Fire Department who claimed he was the victim of reverse race discrimination, helping him win a nine-year-long case that resulted in a promotion and back pay under a settlement that was finalized in March in federal court. Under the settlement, the city was required to promote Capt. Donald Dziwulski, who is white, to the position of Battalion Chief-EMS and to pay him $60,000 in lost wages.
Dziwulski v. Baltimore City Fire Department, Civil Action # 18-cv-277 (D. Md.), is a significant case because Mr. Dziwulski was the victim of reverse race discrimination and was able to vindicate his employment civil rights and obtain the position he was denied with full seniority and lost wages.
“It was a really long, hard battle for my client, who did not give up,” Lebau & Neuworth partner Stephen Lebau, Mr. Dziwulski’s lawyer, said. “It was a long battle for justice.”
Mr. Dziwulski alleged that in 2013 he was passed over for the position of battalion chief despite being ranked first to receive that promotion. Instead, the city promoted two black members of the department to the open posts, using a promotion list that had expired hours earlier. When another battalion chief position opened, the post went to a black deputy chief who was demoted.
Mr. Dziwulski filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January 2014 and the case was also referred to the U.S. Department of Justice, both of which ruled in Mr. Dziwulski favor. However, Baltimore City refused to settle the case, and in November 2017, the Department of Justice authorized Mr. Dziwulksi to file suit against the city.
After extensive discovery (more than 13 depositions), the city settled the case after U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah L. Boardman declined to grant the city’s motion for summary judgment for Mr. Dziwulski’s race-discrimination claim based on the department’s failure to promote him. In denying the Fire Department’s motion for summary judgment and allowing the case to go to trial, the Court stated:
Most significantly, over the course of several months, Captain Dziwulski repeatedly was not selected for promotions for which he was eligible, even though he was ranked first on the Eligibles List in effect at the time. Each time, either African Americans were selected instead of him or the position was left open. Considering these events cumulatively, a genuine dispute exists regarding whether the Department’s reasons each time were legitimate and non-discriminatory or pretext. Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is denied as to Captain Dziwulski’s race discrimination claim based on failure to promote.
The city’s Board of Estimates approved the settlement in January.
In permitting the case to go to trial, the Maryland federal court reaffirmed the principle that justice is color-blind. Mr. Dziwulksi presented sufficient evidence that a reasonable jury could conclude that City Fire Department’s noncompliance with its objective promotion rules was the result of racial consideration.
If you feel you might be the victim of discrimination of any kind in the workplace, contact Lebau & Neuworth for advice and assistance at 1.888.456.2529 or email us at lebauneuworth.com/contact-us.