Builders of the Stan
Musial Bridge, facing trial on a suit claiming they fired crane oiler Terry
Deets because of his white skin, chose to settle with him instead.
His lawyer, John Singer
of Chicago, filed notice of voluntary dismissal in U.S. district court on June
Earlier this year,
Seventh Circuit appellate judges in Chicago ruled that Deets deserved a trial.
They reversed District
Judge Nancy Rosenstengel, who had granted summary judgment to Massman
Construction, Traylor Brothers, and Alberici Constructors.
The companies built the
bridge in a joint venture.
Deets’s union referred
him to the project in 2012, and he started working that May.
John Todt laid him off in July.
According to Deets, Todt
said, “My minority numbers aren’t right. I’m supposed to have 13.9 percent
minorities on this job and I’ve only got 8 percent.”
His pier superintendent
told him he was “sorry to hear about this minority thing,” court records show.
Todt replaced Deets with
a minority person.
Deets rotated through
short term assignments the rest of the year, and the builders terminated him in
He sued them in 2013,
claiming they laid him off for no other reason than to create a position for an
individual based on their minority status. He sought back pay, front pay, lost
benefits, compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Rosenstengel set trial in
February 2015, but granted summary judgment to the builders in January 2015.
She wrote that in order to accept Deets’s view, “we must assume
that Todt is referring to Deets’s termination and not to the practicality of
Todt’s statement were “entirely
consistent with a response to Deets’s concern about further work,” she wrote.
nothing suspicious in any reference to minority numbers, given the affirmative
action obligations of the builders.
She wrote that if
minority numbers were low, a minority worker had to be requested from the union.
Seventh Circuit Chief
Justice Diane Wood and Justices Ann Williams and Richard Posner reversed her
“Based on Todt’s
statement, it does not take any inference to conclude that Deets was laid off
because he was not a minority,” Williams wrote.
“That race was the factor
that led to Deets’s termination is clear on the face of Todt’s statement.
“We are puzzled by the
district court’s conclusion that Todt’s statement related directly to his
decision not to rehire Deets rather than his decision to terminate Deets.”
In March, Rosenstengel ordered
the builders to notify her promptly as to their decision to pursue a writ at
the U. S. Supreme Court.
In May, she set trial for
After Deets moved to
dismiss the suit, Rosenstengel wrote that she would dismiss it and retain
jurisdiction over the settlement.