In 2009, Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) state worker Crystal Perry met with her supervisor to discuss why she was overlooked for a promotion. Days later, someone reportedly perched a 5-foot-tall ape on top of her cubicle wall to which Perry responded by filing a lawsuit against the agency charging discrimination. Now, more than three years later, an Ingham County judge has fined Perry’s employer $1,000 for every day the toy remained on her desk, which amounts to $21,000, according to the Huffington Post.
Once Perry, 47, who has a Master’s degree in human resources and labor relations, discovered the ape above her cubicle, she reportedly approached her supervisor, Duane Noworyta, who is White, about the inappropriate toy. According to Perry, she asked her supervisor repeatedly to remove the ape, but Noworyta allegedly refused and walked away each time.
Perry even reportedly sent e-mails to the DHS department responsible for employee harassment issues but the ape remained untouched for a three-week period.
“It truly belittled me. It just made me feel less than a person,” Perry, has been with DHS for six years, told the Lansing Journal.
Perry also claims that there were several White colleagues at DHS who had been promoted to supervisory positions within the agency even though they lacked degrees.
Last month, after Judge Rosemarie Aquilina finally reviewed Perry’s lawsuit, the judge was particularly moved by the fact that the employer did not remove the ape. While some may argue that Perry should have just removed the ape herself, Perry says, “I didn’t want someone to say [I wasn’t] supposed to do that. It [racist situations] always gets turned back on the victim.”
And the judge agrees with her.
“She had a responsibility to say, ‘I’m upset. I don’t like it. It bothers me. It hurts me,” Judge Aquilina said according to the Lansing Journal. “She did that.”
Not only did the judge fine the agency $21,000 but she also ordered them to pay all of Perry’s attorney’s fees.
“[It] is despicable,” Judge Aquilina said, according to the court transcripts. “It is not worthy of any state department. It is a continued, hostile work environment. It is upsetting. It is beneath any American.”
Even though Perry’s lawsuit is the third one in recent years alleging discrimination within the agency, DHS Spokesperson David Akerly intends to appeal Aquilina’s ruling.
Meanwhile, Perry was transferred to a department within the agency that handles employee discrimination complaints and to date has not been promoted.