Sometimes you need more than an anonymous death threat to show hostility

Ford v. Zalco Realty, Inc., et al. Civil Action No.: 1:08-cv-1318 (E.D. Va. February 1, 2010). Ford applied for a job as the building manager for a high-rise condominium. In his employment application, he disclosed a prior conviction in 1995 for misdemeanor assault. At the time he applied for the job, he had two other pending charges in Maryland which had been brought by a tenant in an apartment building in which he had been the building manager. He was interviewed by three members of the condo’s Board of Directors, who knew of the old and pending charges, and he was hired on a probationary basis. (After he had been employed for about two months, he was found not guilty of the pending charges.) The building’s residents, however, disapproved of the Board hiring a person with a past conviction and pending criminal charges. The disenchanted residents formed a committee and ultimately ousted the board members that had hired Ford. During his two month tenure, Ford was on the receiving end of considerable hostility, including an anonymous death threat that used a racist epithet, and other statements that Ford alleged had racist overtones. Most of the original defendants in the case were voluntarily dismissed. The sole remaining defendant was the attorney who acted as counsel for the board and who was alleged to have engineered (or at least had a hand in) Ford’s firing. On the sole remaining defendant’s motion for summary judgment, however, the court found that the building’s residents had articulated a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for Ford’s termination. Moreover, the court found that the plaintiff’s allegations of hostility did not amount to racist hostility. The court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment and the case was dismissed.

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