Former Boston Teacher Awarded $1.7 Million After School Officials Retaliated Against Him for Workplace Discrimination Complaints

A Suffolk Superior Court jury last Tuesday found the Boston Community Leadership Academy headmaster and other school officials retaliated against a teacher for exercising his legal right to raise concerns about workplace discrimination without fear of retribution. (DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF)

He was the only Black male teacher at a Boston public high school and he had to share an office with the school police.

Charles Sherman Neal was at Boston Community Leadership Academy to start a gym program, an effort that began about a decade ago and earned him strong job reviews. But after he repeatedly raised concerns about being discriminated against — including in complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination — school district leaders fired him.

Now, after more than five years of legal fighting, a Suffolk Superior Court jury this week found that the headmaster and other school officials retaliated against him for exercising his legal right to raise concerns about workplace discrimination without fear of retribution, and awarded him $1.7 million. The jury, however, didn’t agree BPS discriminated against him.

“What the Boston Public Schools did to him is despicable,” said the teacher’s attorney, Ilir Kavaja. “This is a man who had cancer and overcame it and went to work right away and he was put through the wringer. … They had no basis to believe that this person couldn’t fulfill the obligations of his job. They just got tired of his complaints and didn’t want to deal with him.”

He said Neal was emotionally shattered by the termination, causing him to experience both depression and anxiety so severe at times he couldn’t leave his home or even focus on watching television. That swayed the jury, he said, noting that $436,500 of its award was specifically for the injuries he incurred. The remainder of the award broke down this way: $950,000 in punitive damages, and the rest for interest that accrued from when the case was initially filed.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The Boston Globe, James Vaznis