Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy, NY
Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy, NY ()

A federal judge denied the state’s motion to dismiss a job discrimination claim brought by a psychiatric center worker who said he was demoted and denied promotion because he is black—and because his white girlfriend had won a judgment for being unfairly fired from the same center.

Northern District Judge Gary Sharpe (See Profile) held in Richardson v. New York State Office of Mental Health, 6:11-cv-1007 that Keith Richardson has raised enough questions to allow his action to proceed.

Richardson, a security hospital treatment assistant at the Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy, said he was demoted from acting supervising security hospital treatment assistant in 2009. He noted that at about the same time, his girlfriend, Christine Bergerson, won her suit against the psychiatric center and a damages award of $580,000 for being unlawfully terminated because of her gender and affiliation with an “African-American male,” who is Richardson, according to Sharpe’s ruling.

The judge said that in Richardson’s interviews, as he attempted to be appointed permanently as supervising security hospital treatment assistant, his questioners asked about rumors of having improper relationships with residents and of drug use in the facility. Both topics concerned allegations that Richardson said had been disproved long before.

The fact the questioners dwelled on the subjects, and that white candidates with similar qualifications were promoted, suggested that his supervisors were looking for pretexts to deny his advancement, despite his history of positive job evaluations, Richardson alleged.

“Richardson has, at least at this stage, established that there are questions of fact as to whether that reason is pretextual,” Sharpe wrote.

AJ Bosman of Rome represented Richardson. Assistant Attorney General Christopher Hall defended the state.