Durham County Settles Discrimination Lawsuit with Former Manager for $790K
Durham County, located in North Carolina, has settled a discrimination lawsuit filed by its former manager, Wendell Davis, for $790,000. This settlement was revealed by county records that were released earlier this week. Davis, who is African American, filed the lawsuit last year, accusing the Board of County Commissioners of racial and sex-based discrimination. Specifically, he alleged that two white women on the board, Heidi Carter and Wendy Jacobs, had engaged in discriminatory behavior towards him. Both women have denied these claims.
The settlement was reached after the board discussed the case in a closed-door session, which lasted around 30 minutes. Such sessions are held to protect attorney-client privilege. County Chair Brenda Howerton, Commissioner Nimasheena Burns, and Wendy Jacobs all voted to settle, while Heidi Carter did not. Commissioner Nida Allam was out of town at the time of the vote.
County Attorney Alan Andrews stated that the board discussion was “robust” and followed an all-day court-ordered mediation between Davis and the county last week. He also emphasized that there was no admission or finding of liability by or against Durham County.
According to the terms of the settlement, Davis will dismiss the case. However, he did not respond to requests for comment.
This lawsuit was filed after Davis accused Carter of having a pattern of racial bias in her interactions with him and other county employees of color in a letter he sent in 2020. In response, the county hired a Duke attorney to investigate the matter, who found no evidence of racial bias on Carter’s part. Instead, the fractured relationship between Carter and Davis was deemed a product of “dysfunction” in county government.
Davis also claimed that Wendy Jacobs had voted against his hiring and preferred a woman in the position. The lawsuit stated, “The African-American members of the Board of Commissioners have repeatedly and publicly expressed confidence in (Davis). Both African-American member expressed concerns that (Davis) was being subjected to discrimination.” These members referenced were Howerton and Burns.
After seven years on the job, Davis was ousted in 2021. Only Howerton and Burns wanted him to stay on.
Overall, this case highlights the importance of addressing claims of discrimination in the workplace. While no admission of liability was made in this settlement, the fact that the case was filed and settled for such a substantial amount of money speaks to the seriousness of the allegations made by Davis. It also underscores the need for employers to take complaints of discrimination seriously and to investigate them thoroughly, even if the evidence may be difficult to find. By doing so, employers can foster a more inclusive workplace and avoid potentially costly lawsuits in the future.