Man wins bias suit against Army National Guard

Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A former civilian worker at the Army National Guard has won a $230,000 judgment against the Guard in a discrimination case.

The U.S. District Court jury in Nome decided Sunday that Raymond Horton, 37, should get $75,000 in back pay, $25,000 for emotional distress, and $130,000 in ''front pay,'' or compensation for what he could have earned in future employment with the Guard.

The jury found it would be unreasonable to expect Horton to accept reinstatement, lawyers for both sides said. The jury deliberated for about seven hours after a four-day trial.

The jury found reverse sex discrimination and reprisal for a prior lawsuit filed by Horton, according to his lawyer, Robert A. Sparks. Jurors didn't go along with a race bias claim by Horton, who is Native.

Horton worked for the Guard in Nome as a heavy equipment mechanic from 1988 to 1995, according to Sparks. He filed a lawsuit after he was passed over for the supervisor's job in the three-person shop, but that suit was dismissed by U.S. District Judge James Singleton. An appeals panel sided with the judge.

Horton left the Guard to work for the Nome Police Department, Sparks said, but then applied for his old job again in December 1996. The Guard instead hired Sally Duny, a Native woman from Marshall.

''Sally Duny was hired because she was considered best qualified for the job,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Retta Randall, who handled the case for the Guard. ''Mr. Horton's definition of qualified was the number of years you have turned a wrench. The Guard decided it was more important to find someone who was punctual, who showed up on the job.''

Prosecutors haven't decided whether to file an appeal, Randall said.

The Guard came under fire for its hiring practices in 1995, and Gov. Tony Knowles appointed a five-member panel to review claims of on-the-job discrimination against Alaska Natives in the state's Army and Air National Guard.

Since then, the Guard has made progress, according to Jim Chase, deputy commissioner of the state's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Chase was picked in 1995 to carry out the recommendations that came out of the review panel.

''Our method of operating was, I think, completely overhauled,'' Chase said. ''It's awfully hard to grow people into the ranks over just five or six years so there would be parity at all levels. But we're making an observable change in the spread among the ranks.''

About a third of the members of the Guard are Alaska Natives, compared with about 20 percent in the general Alaska population, he said.



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