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Race bias case reinstated of clerk accused of theft, falsely arrested


A federal appeals court has reinstated a race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by a supermarket clerk, concluding he may have been framed for credit card theft and then falsely arrested after he complained about race discrimination.

Sammy Perry, who began working as a night-shift stock clerk at Redner’s Market Inc. in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, in 2003, complained to then-assistant store director Brian Golden in April 2004 that African-American employees were having their hours cut, were being paid less than white employees and were being forced to work on weekends, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia in Kayunta Johnson-Winters v. Redner’s Market Inc. Mr. Perry died in 2014, and the lawsuit was assumed by his daughter.

Mr. Perry filed a race discrimination complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in November 2004 and subsequently claimed he became subject to a pattern of antagonism, according to the ruling.

A month later, he was injured at work and was out of work for 1½ years, returning in August 2006. Less than a month later, a woman reported to the local police that her credit card was missing and that she had last used it at the supermarket. The credit card was used at the same store the following day without authorization.

The supermarket provided the police with a videotape that showed Mr. Perry at a store cash register 15 minutes after the credit card had been illegally used, according to the ruling. Mr. Perry was arrested for the theft and handcuffed at the store. He was also terminated, although whether it was at that time or subsequently is in dispute.

Another store employee subsequently confessed she had used the credit card, and said she was repeatedly pressured by store employees to falsely say Mr. Perry was involved in the theft, according to the ruling.

Mr. Perry filed suit, charging race discrimination and retaliation. The U.S. District Court in Philadelphia granted Redner’s summary judgment dismissing the case.

But a unanimous three-judge appeals panel vacated the summary judgment and remanded the case. “We believe there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether someone at Redner’s purposefully and maliciously identified Perry in connection with the unauthorized transactions,” said the ruling.

“The record demonstrates that a reasonable jury could find, contrary to the district court’s ruling, that Redner’s purposefully gave police the wrong video footage so that the police would identify Perry as the perpetrator in an attempt to implicate him in the crime.”

The ruling said Mr. Perry has provided “sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that the alleged adverse actions were taken against him in retaliation for his previous complaints of race discrimination.”

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