Court grants partial dismissal in Urban League discrimination case

By Robert Davis | Mar 21, 2018

ST. LOUIS – Judge Audrey Fleissig presiding in the Eastern District Court of Missouri dismissed allegations of mail fraud against the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis while granting complaints of service letter violations and allegations of employment discrimination filed by former employee Herta Martha Shikapwashya.

The order was made March 8.

Fleissig argued that Shikapwashya did not demonstrate the “who, what, when, where, and how” required for the court to pursue a charge of mail fraud. 

On the allegations of workplace discrimination and service letter violations, the court found that Shikapwashya did demonstrate nominal damages sufficient to show malice on the part of the Urban League for the purposes of a punitive damage award.

According to the order, Shikapwashya, an African-American of African origin, first filed charges of workplace discrimination against the Urban League with the Missouri Commission of Human Rights (MCHR) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in April 2017. She stated that she was sexually harassed, was not eligible for awards for which she was qualified, and was unable to hire candidates for her program. She also claimed that her supervisor invaded her home, placed listening devices in her office and damaged her company laptop.

The court granted her the right to sue the Urban League a week later, and she filed a lawsuit alleging violations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 two months afterward. 

The order states that Shikapwashya worked the Urban League for 16 years, rising to the vice president of workplace development before being terminated in September 2016. In August 2015, Shikapwashya alleges her supervisor showed favoritism towards male colleagues and African-American colleagues with lighter skin complexions and stated her supervisor failed to reprimand such individuals for failing to complete job tasks.

After being terminated, she sent two certified service letter requests to the Urban League's human resources officer asking for the reason for her termination. The first request was returned. The second request, Shikapwashya contends, was inaccurate. 

Afterward, the Urban League allegedly posted Shikapwashya's mugshot on the doors of her supervisor's office and at a job fair open to the general public. 

Shikapwashya contends she was terminated as a result of this discrimination and for her earlier complaints. She also contends that the Urban League discriminated also against her due to her age, citing that after her termination, the organization hired a younger employee and paid the individual $10,000 less than Shikapwashya was paid.

The Urban League moved to dismiss these claims contending that they are not related to the charges of discrimination and that her claims were untimely filed. 

The court agreed with some of Shikapwashya's contentions, citing a number of factual and plausible suggestions that she was retaliated against because of her prior complaints.

However, the court disagreed with Shikapwashya's claims that the discrimination falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were unsubstantiated because she did not demonstrate that the conduct was done in retaliation for a complaint based on a statutorily protected category, such as revoking a workforce executed contract for no reason.

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