Today the Massachusetts Appeals Court vindicated Chantal Charles, a black woman and longtime public servant, who had won a nearly $11 million verdict in 2015 in her race discrimination and retaliation case against the City of Boston and the City’s First Assistant Collector-Treasurer Vivian Leo. The Appeals Court issued a unanimous 45-page decision affirming the jury’s verdict that the City and Ms. Leo discriminated and retaliated against Ms. Charles and granted Ms. Charles’ appeal of the trial court’s decision to reduce the punitive damages verdict.
Ms. Charles is an outstanding employee who has worked in the City’s Treasury Department for thirty-three years, managing the Edward Ingersoll Browne Trust and other trusts, and has dedicated her career to beautifying and improving the city’s parks and neighborhoods. Despite her excellent performance, Ms. Charles has never been promoted. The Treasury Division generally has failed to promote black employees to higher level management positions and is one of the least racially diverse departments in the City with one of the highest pay gaps between white and non-white employees. Ms. Charles’ longtime supervisor left his position after Ms. Leo called Ms. Charles “aloof, non-deferential, and uppity” and insisted that he give her a poor performance review, which he refused to do because it was unwarranted. Following his departure, Ms. Charles continued to experience discrimination and was passed over for promotion to his position twice.
After hearing the evidence at trial, the jury found that the City and Ms. Leo engaged in a “consistently enforced pattern and practice of discrimination” against black employees. The jury also found that the City and Ms. Leo retaliated against Ms. Charles for filing a charge of discrimination at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.