Fulton settles discrimination lawsuit

A former Fulton County employee who was awarded $1.7 million in a racial discrimination lawsuit against his employer has decided to settle for slightly less to avoid an appeal.

The county Board of Commissioners last week approved a $979,853 cash settlement with former Human Services Deputy Director Doug Carl. It also agreed to pay Carl a full pension beginning in December 2017.

The combined value of the cash and pension benefits is nearly $1.6 million. That’s slightly than the nearly $1.7 million in damages and litigation costs Carl won in lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

Under the settlement, the county will not appeal the jury verdict that resulted in the award. The county will pay Carl $722,869 when the settlement is finalized, plus another $256,985 next January.

Commissioners approved the settlement by vote of 5-0. County officials declined to comment on the settlement.

Carl’s attorney, A. Lee Parks, said his client agreed to take less money in order to avoid an appeal and to get the money sooner. Carl also prefers to receive pension payments over time rather than in the $580,623 lump sum as required in a recent court order, Parks said.

He praised the county for “being more businesslike” than he said it has in the past.

“Traditionally, they’ve appealed (lawsuits) until the wheels fell off,” Parks said. “The county’s finally figuring out that it costs more to litigate sometimes after they’ve lost than it does to settle.”

Carl filed the lawsuit six years ago, claiming he was passed over for a director’s job because he is white and male.

Jurors heard testimony that former County Manager Tom Andrews called employees “black marbles” and “white marbles” in making personnel decisions. They also heard second-hand testimony that County Commissioner Emma Darnell allegedly told a deputy county manager that there were “too many white boys” in Human Services and the new director should be black and female.

The deputy later denied hearing Darnell say that, and county officials said Carl didn’t get the job because of a poor job interview. But last August, the federal jury found Fulton County had illegally discriminated against Carl and awarded him $300,000 in back wages.

Last month, Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman added about $885,000 in future lost wages and pension benefits and other relief to the award. The judge also ordered the county to pay $465,884 in attorneys’ fees and litigation costs Carl incurred.