Rasor Firm Wins Big Workplace Discrimination Suit

By Crystal A. Proxmire

Michael Hester's job was hard enough. For over ten years he worked as a mason doing maintenance work in the Ryan Correctional Facility in Detroit. In a complex surrounded by two, 12-foot fences, electronic detection systems, razor-ribbon wire, gun towers and buffer fencing, and filled with people imprisoned on a variety of charges, Hester would do hard work involving building, construction and repair. At 62, two years shy of retirement, he looks forward to the end of working.

But it's not just the dismal environment or the physically exhausting work that has worn on Hester's soul. For much of his career there, Hester was the victim of ongoing racial discrimination at the hands of his supervisors.

Around the prison, black workers were called "Democrats" and often faced mockery and unfairness in job assignments. But in 2008 it got worse when a man named Sergio Paglia, who Attorney Jonathan Marko called a "hard core racist," took over as supervisor. Marko said that Paglia "admitted that black kids would come and ruin his baseball games as a child and said that the riots [of the 1960s] ruined his life."

In a trial that ended on Dec. 14, 2012, witnesses described how Paglia would call Hester lazy, swear at him and constantly single him out. In the mornings when the workers would go over their orders for the day, Paglia would come in and make the black workers leave the room. "The white buys were embarrassed for the African Americans in the shop," Marko said. "It got so bad that the white guys stood up for them." Complaints went "all the way up the chain" in the prison, including to the Warden. When Paglia got sick of the complaints, he ordered Hester to an electrical job that was beyond his job training and requirements, and could easily have killed him.

Hester refused and told him to put the job order in writing, and he testified that he was told to "choose between your life or your job." Hester was written up when he refused. Finally he'd had enough and he turned to The Rasor Law Firm for help.

At the end of the trial the jury awarded Hester a $452,000 settlement. Marko explained that the action was not just because of the actions of one mean supervisor, but a systematic problem at the facility. "The real problem in the DOC [Department of Corrections] as a whole. The fact is it was allowed to go on so long. They condoned the behavior and they are responsible."

Jim Rasor, founder of the Rasor Law Firm, is an openly gay attorney who helps clients with a wide range of legal issues including discrimination cases. He and Marko worked to bring Hester some relief. But there are still cases they must turn away.

"Employment laws are tough," Marko said. "There is no right to work. Employers don't need a reason to fire you. The trick is identifying how a case may work under the laws we have."

For example, the firm is currently working on a case in Grand Rapids Federal Court on behalf of a teacher who was fired from the Corunna Public School District and treated differently than other teachers because she is gay. "Though it's not a protected class, it can fall under discrimination based on gender," Marko said.

However, in not all cases is the discrimination based on gender very clear. "Gay people are not a protected class. I've had clients that I've had to turn away. I had a homosexual male who was an employee of a pizza place. He was subjected to discrimination by a manager who was extremely mean to him after learning his sexual orientation. But he never brought up gender. This gentleman should have had a chance to go through the court system. That's a case of justice lost."

Rasor made clear, however, that people who feel like they have been discriminated should still contact his office for a consultation. "We fight to win at Rasor Law, so we get very creative when we have someone in our office that might not be able to recover under traditional theories. But there are cases that just can't be brought under the existing law, and even one of those is too many!"

While the law continues to evolve, and cases like those brought by his firm continue to send the message that discrimination is wrong (and expensive), Rasor does other work to lift up the LGBT community. Since 2010 he has served on the city commission for Royal Oak, and recently ushered in the beginnings of a human rights ordinance which is expected to be complete in 2013. He said that the human rights ordinance is "the right thing to do and the right time to do it."

His law firm also offers services to help LGBT families such as partnership agreements for same sex couples, help same sex couples separate financially when it is time, and families with all sort of general practice legal issues, like criminal offenses, personal injury cases, divorces and bankruptcy.

He also worked on cases in the early 2000s where men were arrested and had their vehicles impounded in the Rouge Park area of Detroit simply for flirting with other men, waving, or giving out their phone numbers to other men. The "annoying persons ordinance" fell to the wayside after attorneys like Rasor began suing the city, claiming they were targeting gays in the area who weren't breaking any laws.

To find out more about Rasor Law Firm, visit their website at http://www.rasorlawfirm.com/.

Rasor Law Firm

Jim Rasor

321 S. Williams Street
Royal Oak, MI 48067

Main Number: 248-543-9000
Fax Number: 248-543-9050

Call the Rasor Law Firm at 248.543.9000 to schedule your free confidential consultation. The Rasor Law firm is committed to providing legal services to business entities and individuals in a professional, timely, and cost-efficient basis. The Firm’s result-based philosophy, exceptional customer service and legal work combine to provide an exceptional value for clients. A high level of investment in advanced office technology, professional staff, and research materials provides for an excellent work product, produced in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Personal Injury Car accidents, medical mistakes, defective products, and work injuries—we have the experience to assess the situation, identify the party at fault and make them take responsibility for their actions. We have recovered millions of dollars for our clients in personal injury lawsuits. The Rasor Law Firm has represented clients who were injured in auto accidents (whether driver or pedestrian), as well as truck, motorcycle, and boating accidents. We have successfully won cases involving legal and medical malpractice, product liability, and dog bites. Our goal is to bring your claim to a satisfactory conclusion. These cases can often be resolved through working directly with the insurance company or liable party, and litigation can be avoided altogether. Criminal Defense If you are in trouble with the law, we can help you. We have a proven track record of favorable results for our clients in thousands of cases. It doesn’t matter if it’s a minor traffic violation, a drunk driving accusation or something much more serious. The Rasor Law Firm has represented clients charged with drunk driving (DUI, DWI), traffic offenses such as Drove while License Suspended (DWLS), domestic violence, assault and battery, theft and burglary, embezzlement and white collar crimes, marijuana or other drug possession, juvenile crimes, and sex crimes such as criminal sexual conduct (CSC). Internet sex crimes are an expanding and developing area of law. The police may pose as a minor on the Internet (on Facebook, AOL, Yahoo!, Myspace, Manhunt, Gay.com or other sites) to try to entice some type of IM (instant messaging) chat or email exchange that could lead to criminal charges being filed. These serious charges can be for child pornography or allegations that you accosted, enticed, or solicited a minor to engage in sex over the Internet. The resulting police conduct can sometimes border on entrapment; often followed up with a home search and the seizure of a computer. Much of this allegedly illegal conduct, however, is protected by the First Amendment. These charges, whether misdemeanor and/or felony, can have disastrous, long-term effects on your life, career, and relationships. You need an experienced, aggressive, diligent and vigorous legal defense team by your side. While it might be tempting to allow a court appointed lawyer to represent you, you get what you pay for when it comes to criminal defense. If you are in legal trouble, call the Rasor Law Firm immediately! We will treat your case with the utmost confidentiality and give you a fair assessment of your situation. Not every client has his or her case dismissed, but we can often get charges or penalties reduced. Don’t try to go through this on your own. We’re well known, we’re experts and we will fight for you. Bankruptcy Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy might be the best option to solve your financial problems. You may have been through a divorce, or had a medical emergency that left you with staggering hospital bills. You may have suffered identity theft or a sudden job loss. Often it is a combination of setbacks that contributes to financial difficulties—what may have seemed like minor credit card debt ballooned over time, leaving you with little hope of repaying your debts. Under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, you can seek financial relief. Call Rasor Law Firm today and take control of your financial situation. Stop creditor harassment, phone calls, and letters demanding immediate payment. Protect your home and automobile from unnecessary foreclosure or repossession. Once we have filed a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition, the courts issue an automatic stay which forbids creditors from contacting you until you get a hearing in bankruptcy court. Our experienced bankruptcy team will provide you with a free analysis of your circumstances and start you on the road to a solid financial future and peace of mind.

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