LANSING (AP) – A judge has fined the Michigan Department of Human Services $21,000 after someone placed a 5-foot toy ape atop the cubicle of a black employee.
The fine stemmed from a 2010 discrimination lawsuit filed by Crystal Perry. Last month, Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina found there was no evidence that discrimination caused Perry to not be promoted, the Lansing State Journal reports
Aquilina, however, ordered the department to pay $1,000 for every day the toy was left atop Perry’s office cubicle in 2009 and to pay Perry’s attorney fees.
“It is not worthy of any state department,” Aquilina said, according to transcripts of her ruling. “It is a continued, hostile work environment. It is upsetting. It is beneath any American.”
Perry called it a racially motivated attack, arguing that white workers were promoted ahead of her. Her supervisor at the DHS child support office told her he didn’t know who placed the toy there, and the toy remained on the cubicle for about three weeks.
Perry, 47, of Eaton County’s Delta Township, said she didn’t take the toy down herself because she was worried she would be criticized.
“It truly belittled me. It just made me feel less than a person,” said Perry, 47, of Eaton County’s Delta Township.
During closing arguments in the January trial, Assistant Attorney General Jeanmarie Miller said there was no evidence that the toy ape incident was “racial in origin,” and no evidence it was connected to Perry not being promoted. The attorney general’s office represented DHS.
“There could be lots of reasons for it,” Miller told the judge. Miller did say, however, that the toy should have been taken down sooner.
DHS spokesman David Akerly said the agency intends to appeal Aquilina’s ruling.
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