Christine Todd Whitman opened her tenure as EPA administrator by moving to drop the agency''s legal battle against a black female employee who won a $300,00 judgment in a discrimination lawsuit.
A federal jury last August ordered EPA to pay damages to Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, who said she suffered years of racial and sexual harassment.
Coleman-Adebayo is a senior adviser to EPA''s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxic Substances.
She claimed in her lawsuit that she was denied promotion on two occasions while white men in similar positions were not.
She said she was the target of racial slurs and suffered retaliation after she complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The jury awarded her $600,000 in compensatory damages. A U.S. district judge subsequently cut the award in half.
After the ruling in August, EPA released a statement saying, "The agency defended itself vigorously against these charges. We will be reviewing further options available to us along with the U.S. Attorney''s Office."
On Jan. 22, the Justice Department asked the judge to overturn the jury''s findings, order a new trial or further reduce the award to $50,000.
Whitman was sworn in as EPA administrator on Jan. 31. The next day she wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to withdrawal its motion to overturn the verdict.
"I believe that swift, final resolution of this issue best serves EPA employees, as well as the plaintiff," Whitman wrote.
by Virginia Sutcliffe