Former PLCB employee claims race was factor in termination

By Jon Campisi | Jun 21, 2013

A former licensing analyst for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has filed a wrongful

termination suit against the agency, contending that he was let go because of his race.

John R. Wooden claims in his newly filed civil action that he was fired from his job on Jan. 12 of last year because of his race.

Wooden, who is black, and as a licensing analyst was in part responsible for composing accurate and complete detailed investigative reports for the state agency, says he was told he was being terminated for unsatisfactory work performance and falsification of official documents or records, but believes the true motivation behind his termination was the color of his skin.

Prior to his firing, the PLCB imposed upon the plaintiff three action plans, each spanning 90 days, supposedly designed to address aspects of Wooden’s performance that were said to be below expectation, the complaint shows.

Wooden reviewed and signed the first two plans, but refused to sign the third, according to the suit, after which the defendant took “unjustified and unwarranted disciplinary action against Wooden that was motivated by his race.”

Included in each of the action plans were quality control guidelines that set forth the time frame for conducting each type of investigation, expectations regarding the examination of liquor license applications, and other guidelines.

During the start of each action plan, Wooden’s supervisor would meet with the plaintiff to review the status of Wooden’s various investigations, the suit states.

The supervisor allegedly attempted to determine what was causing the delay in the submission of Wooden’s work, the suit states, with the supervisor at first believing Wooden was simply unable to manage his time.

At the conclusion of the first action plan, the supervisor claimed that Wooden failed to meet the Quality Control Guidelines on eight different assignments, although the supervisor never determined whether Wooden’s percentage compliance with the guidelines was consistent with the percentage compliance of non-black subordinates, according to the complaint.

Wooden’s performance rating came in as unsatisfactory following the execution of the first action plan.

The plaintiff contends the rating was unwarranted, and actually motivated by race.

Wooden faced disciplinary measures relating to the unsatisfactory rating including receiving a “level two” letter that carried the same weight as a three-day suspension.

Similar results arose out of the section action plan, the lawsuit states, with Wooden again receiving a disciplinary notice.

On both occasions, the supervisor “manifested his intent to unjustifiably terminate Wooden,” the complaint states.

At the conclusion of the third action plan, the suit says, the supervisor again reviewed Wooden’s assigned investigations, and claimed that about 62 percent of the plaintiff’s work didn’t meet the Quality Control Guidelines.

This time, the defendant charged that Wooden falsified a sketch of a business looking to obtain a liquor license and placed a liquor license application placard behind a tinted glass window that made the document difficult to read.

Wooden was required to attend a pre-disciplinary conference in early January 2012, the record shows, after which he was ultimately terminated from his job.

“Wooden’s termination was racially discriminatory,” the complaint reads. “The actions of Wooden’s superiors were intentional, malicious, and in reckless disregard of his right to be free from discrimination and retaliation.”

As a result of his firing, Wooden claims he has suffered loss of income, loss of professional opportunities, embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety and mental anguish.

The defendant is accused of violating the federal Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Wooden seeks to have a judge issue a declaration that the defendant engaged in illegal race discrimination, and injunctive relief prohibiting the PLCB from continuing to engage in its illegal practices.

The plaintiff also seeks job reinstatement, in addition to back pay, front pay, damages for past and future mental anguish and pain and suffering, attorney’s fees and costs, and other legal relief.

Wooden is being represented by Philadelphia attorney Robert T. Vance, Jr.


The federal case number is 2:13-cv-03498-AB.

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