City must hire 9 men who sued over police jobs

Lawyers for Pittsburgh will appeal verdict

Thursday, July 30, 1998

By Marylynne Pitz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A federal judge ordered Pittsburgh yesterday to hire nine white men who applied for jobs on its police force in December 1992.

A jury decided last month that race was a motivating factor in the city's rejection of the nine men.

Yesterday, Senior U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill Jr. said the men had to pass background checks as well as physical and psychological exams.

All of the men, except one, are currently employed in law enforcement.

After a trial in June, a jury awarded more than $400,000 in back pay to eight of the men.

They were: Harry Lutton of Brookline; Lawrence Skinger of the North Side; Brian Dayton of Taneytown, Md.; John Shamlin of Overbrook; Joseph Dinnien of Philadelphia; Charles Knox of North Versailles; Donald Hamlin of Munhall; and Michael Hopp of Morningside.

The award represents the difference between what the men would have earned as city police officers and what they are earning at their current jobs.

One of the men, Mark Joyce, a U.S. Secret Service agent, could not seek back pay because his salary has always been higher than what he would have earned as a Pittsburgh police officer.

The jury's award was based from the date the men should have been hired up until the time they went to trial.

The city is appealing that verdict.

As part of yesterday's ruling, Cohill ordered the city to begin paying each of the men what is known as front pay.

That will cover the difference in their paychecks from yesterday until they are hired.

The men's attorney, Samuel J. Cordes, estimated that front pay would cost the city about $72,000 annually.

City Solicitor Jacqueline Morrow did not return several calls yesterday seeking comment on Cohill's order.

The city, however, could ask Cohill for a stay of his order in an attempt to delay hiring the men.

In 1993, the nine men sued the city and its civil service commission.

In their lawsuit, they said the 30-minute oral exam, given on a pass-fail basis, is used to weed out qualified white applicants.

The nine men sought appointment to the city's police force and back pay from the dates they say they should have been hired.

As part of yesterday's ruling, Cohill ordered that the men be hired with the seniority they would have accrued if they had been hired in December 1992.

Cordes said yesterday that ordering an employer to hire people as a remedy for discrimination "doesn't happen that often."

Usually, judges order the company to pay money damages instead of hiring the person.

Randall Marshall, an assistant city solicitor, said that on appeal, the city will argue that the men had to show it had a practice of ruling out applicants on the basis of race.

Earlier, Marshall had said the city designed the oral exam to improve its hiring process. The oral exam, he told jurors, disqualifies about 35 percent of all applicants, regardless of race.

The city's rejection of the nine men, Marshall had said, was based on their failure of the oral exam and had nothing to do with their race.