Solar worker wins racial discrimination suit against former employer

By Nick Coston | Mar 9, 2016

PHILADELPHIA - A former employee of Volt Solar Systems in Bridgeport has successfully sued the company after allegedly being the target of incessant racial discrimination that ultimately led to his termination.

Sandy Tucker was awarded $170,500 by Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina in a default judgment against the absent defendant following a bench trial. Volt has not filed an appeal.

“I think the judgment is fair,” said Tucker’s attorney, Christopher DelGaizo. “I’m pleased with it, and I believe Mr. Tucker is also.”

The discrimination against Tucker included nicknames like “Buck” and analogies to athletes, such as Michael Vick.

“These analogies were to explain why, despite being the project manager, Mr. Tucker was left out of meetings,” said DelGaizo. “He was not given a credit card like previous Caucasian project managers, he was not given a vehicle until his own broke down while carpooling his workers to distant worksites, and he wasn’t paid the same salary as the previous project manager.”

The situation escalated to physical violence after Tucker reprimanded a white subordinate for wearing headphones on the job. After the confrontation, the subordinate threatened Tucker with a baseball bat.

“But when Mr. Tucker reported this,” DelGaizo said, “he was asked what he had done to cause the incident.”

According to DelGaizo, Volt management called the police on Tucker more than once.

“When Mr. Tucker went into the office to complain about non-payment of prevailing wage jobs, he was told, in a not-so-polite manner, to get out of the office. After he left, the supervisor called Mr. Tucker to inform him that he was reporting Mr. Tucker’s work vehicle to the police as stolen.”

When Volt management terminated Tucker, his supervisor allegedly called the police again to remove him from the premises.

Tucker thereafter sued Volt on claims of racial discrimination, retaliation, and violations of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law and Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Tucker pursued recovery of $58,000 in back pay. He also sought $13,440 for disparity in payment suffered after his promotion to project manager did not yield a raise commensurate with the promotion, as his white predecessors had received.

He sought $35,400 in unpaid wages from prevailing wage jobs, for a total sum of $106,840. Tucker claimed emotional injury from his termination and treatment.

The legal victory does not change Tucker’s plans, however.

“What’s next for Mr. Tucker? He’s still working in the solar industry. He’s going to carry on,” DelGaizo said.

“It was an unfortunate situation. He truly thought there was a future for him [at Volt]. He’s going to move on wiser and more wary.”

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