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Is anti-Semitism rampant at the Federal Aviation Administration? That’s what a U.S. District Court judge and jury in Miami will have to determine this week, when they are scheduled to hear the case of Martin Goldenberg, a 10-year employee of the FAA who currently works in the Miami office. Goldenberg has sued the U.S. secretary of transportation for discrimination, based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The most he can collect in damages is $300,000, due to a statutory cap on recoveries in civil rights litigation, says his attorney, William Bransford of Shaw Bransford Veilleux & Roth in Washington, D.C. Nearly three dozen FAA employees and managers from around the country are being called to testify in the trial, which is scheduled to start today. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore will preside. Goldenberg, who works in the airway facilities section of the office as an assistant manager for implementation, says he was unfairly denied a promotion to a supervisory position due to anti-Semitism and preferential treatment of women and minorities. He also claims that he suffered retaliation for complaining about these problems. He alleges that numerous FAA employees in Atlanta and Miami made anti-Semitic comments about him. In court papers, the FAA denies discriminating or retaliating against Goldenberg. It says he did not receive promotions because he was not as qualified as other candidates. While the agency acknowledges having affirmative action and diversity policies, it contends that Goldenberg has not established that these policies are illegal or that they played any role in his failure to obtain a promotion. As to the allegations of anti-Semitism, the FAA says they amount to “nothing more than a loose and irrelevant array of stray comments separated by time and the persons to whom the conduct is attributed,” according to pleadings by assistant U.S. attorney Jose Bonau, who is defending the case. In his lawsuit, Goldenberg, 59, says he joined the FAA in 1990 after spending 25 years at AT&T in Washington, D.C., in technical, supervisory and management positions. He was hired as a program manager responsible for implementing national FAA projects and managing private contractors. To obtain the field experience necessary for a promotion to sector manager, Goldenberg relocated to Miami. While he excelled there, he contends, he heard that employees in the Atlanta regional office were making anti-Semitic comments and jokes about him. Some of the comments allegedly were made in the presence of the manager of airway facilities in the southern region and her deputy. The two FAA employees either laughed or failed to censure the person making the comment, according to the lawsuit. In August 1992, the suit alleges, Bobby Morris, a manager in Miami, refused to allow Goldenberg to work in Miami, calling him a “Washington Jew,” and describing him as “too pushy.” The suit alleges that another manager, Hoyt Dunn, said, “We ought to send that little Jew back to Washington” in the presence of two witnesses at a division manager’s meeting. Bransford says several witnesses who allegedly heard these comments will testify at the trial. In 1994 and 1995, the FAA restructured the airways facilities division, which created a number of new supervisory jobs. Goldenberg says he bid on four supervisory positions in the southern region but was not selected for any. According to the suit, he was told he lacked supervisory experience, even though his immediate supervisor considered Goldenberg’s job supervisory. The lawsuit notes that FAA management previously had relaxed the requirement that candidates have one year of supervisory experience. Goldenberg alleges in the suit that his race and sex contributed to his being passed over for promotion. A woman, Cathy Bailey, got the job he wanted, the FAA says, because she did better than the other candidates in the interview. But Goldenberg alleges that her promotion had more to do with an FAA policy that required that half of all promotions be awarded to women and minorities. In 1995, Goldenberg filed a complaint with the FAA’s equal employment opportunity office. He later withdrew that complaint to file a lawsuit. In its pleadings, the FAA counters that Goldenberg did not receive promotions because he scored substantially lower in the interview process than the individuals who got the promotions and was not rated among the most qualified by a recommendation panel. Additionally, the agency claims, Goldenberg failed to take advantage of FAA supervisor training or self-directed management and technical courses to burnish his resume. Now “emotionally distraught,” according to his suit, Goldenberg is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, restoration of sick and annual leave, attorney fees — and his long-sought promotion.

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