DES MOINES— A jury on Thursday awarded a black woman $130,000, finding that Iowa Workforce Development officials retaliated against her after she filed a racial discrimination complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
The jury found Dorothea Polk, 52, was the subject of retaliation when she was fired from her mail clerk job in 2006.
The Polk County jury also considered whether the state agency discriminated against her based on race when she was passed over for a clerk’s job earlier. The jury didn’t find racial discrimination was proven.
Polk’s lawyers, Thomas Newkirk and Leonard Bates, presented to the jury a damage award of at least $780,000, which would have compensated her for future lost earnings, back pay, and emotional distress for discrimination and retaliation.
The jury, however, found only retaliation for her dismissal and awarded her $80,000 for back pay and $50,000 for emotional distress.
“The jury rejected all three of Ms. Polk’s claims that race was a motivating factor in Iowa Workforce Development’s employment decisions,” said Geoff Greenwood, spokesman for the Iowa attorney general’s office, which represented the state. “The jury did find in Ms. Polk’s favor on a retaliation claim. We respect the jury’s decision. The state is considering its appeal options.”
The trial is the first of four cases involving workers fired from jobs at IWD between 1999 and 2006.
Polk’s attorneys argued that a culture of discrimination and retaliation existed under IWD’s then-human resources director, Jackie Mallory, who was fired in 2006.
“What this proves is that the state has a continuing problem with retaliation against employees who complain about discrimination,” Newkirk said.
Polk’s attorneys plan to file a motion with the trial judge asking for reinstatement of her job or other relief since the jury awarded her no future earnings or damages for future emotional distress.