Forsyth settles with employee in federal discrimination lawsuit

awomack@macon.comMarch 19, 2013 

A former Forsyth Electrical Department lineman will receive $160,000 as part of a settlement with the city of Forsyth in a federal employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuit.

Windell Rutherford started work with the city in 1998 and was promoted to lead lineman in 2002.

He became disabled after an on-the job injury in June 2006.

In December 2006, Rutherford was instructed to come back to work, but the city refused to return him to his job as lead lineman when he asked for accommodations that would have allowed him to do the job, according to the lawsuit filed last August in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

Rutherford contended the electrical superintendant twice said he didn’t want him in his department. Once, he said it was because of Rutherford’s injury and disability. A second time he said it was because “all linemen are white,” according to the lawsuit. Rutherford is black.

Initially, Rutherford was placed in a light duty position in the Public Works Department without a pay cut.

Rutherford alleged the Public Works director and city administrator tried to force him to sign a form in April 2010 saying he would accept a demotion to Public Works clerk and a pay cut of more than 50 percent.

The city had allowed a white lineman to stay on the job with medical restrictions. Rutherford accepted the demotion in lieu of being fired, according to the lawsuit.

He applied for a transfer to an open lineman position later that year, but the job was given to two less qualified, non-disabled white men, Rutherford contended.

In May 2012, raises were proposed for Rutherford and three other employees. His raise was not approved because he had filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the court filing.

Rutherford initially sought to be reinstated to his lead lineman job and $22.50-per-hour salary or damages for future lost wages and benefits. He also sought other monetary damages.

Forsyth and Rutherford settled the case March 5, according to court records.

City Attorney Bobby Melton said Rutherford will be placed in an inventory clerk position. He will be reimbursed for his portion of mediation expenses, in addition to the $160,000.

Rutherford’s Atlanta lawyer declined comment Tuesday, saying the settlement was confidential.

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