Cox wins rights claim vs. Friends of Animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1999:

Department of Human Rights and Local Business
Development on September 17 told complainant
Carroll Cox and respondent Friends of Animals that
it has found probable cause to believe that FoA violated
the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977 when it
fired Cox in August 1999.
A former special investigator for the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Cox was hired by
FoA in April 1997 to work on wildlife issues. He
was relocated from his own office in Hawaii to the
FoA branch office in Washington D.C. in June 1997
––and was fired by FoA president Priscilla Feral
just seven weeks later, despite apparently outstanding
performance, acknowledged in her memos.

Reporting the firing, the October 1997
edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE detailed six recent
Cox investigations which brought FoA positive
results. FoA then halted advertising and grant support
of ANIMAL PEOPLE, worth $6,000 in the
preceding year.
Cox contended that FoA fired him as a
result of his pursuing a case for wrongful nonpromotion
against the Fish and Wildlife Service,
which led to his eventual dismissal by the Service.
Cox then contested the Fish and Wildlife Service
dismissal. FoA has long had a cooperative relationship
with the Fish and Wildlife Service, in connection
with African anti-poaching programs. The FoA
anti-poaching work initially received funding from
the Fish and Wildlife Service. More recently, the
funding has come via USAid, with Fish and
Wildlife Service advisory input.
At the time Cox was fired, however,
FoA was also suing the Fish and Wildlife Service,
seeking to stop coyote-killing at the Julia Butler
Hansen National Wildlife Refuge in southern
Washington. On August 19, FoA attorney Herman
Kaufman told ANIMAL PEOPLE that FoA was
close to a favorable settlement of the lawsuit, and
that Cox was about to be fired. On August 20, he
again told ANIMAL PEOPLE that a favorable settlement
was near, and said Cox was fired.
The D.C. Department of Human Rights
and Local Business Development found that, “In
evaluating whether the Complainant [ C o x ] w a s
retaliated against for filing an Equal Economic
Opportunity complaint against his previous employer,
the record shows that the Respondent [ F o A ] knew [when Cox was hired] of his previous
employment with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and that the Complainant had a lawsuit
against the agency that was ongoing. Documentation
indicates that the Respondent also had a compliant
against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
and was in the process of settlement negotiations.
Furthermore, it acknowledged that it requested the
Complainant to provide it with the parties named
and court information regarding his suit with the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Documentation
shows that the first settlement offer the Respondent
received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
was unsatisfactory, but it expected to receive a better
settlement offer shortly thereafter. Further, the
decision to terminate the Complainant was made
prior to the second settlement offer.
“While it appears that the Respondent has
a legitimate reason for its actions,” the Department
of Human Rights and Local Business Development
findings continues, namely that FoA “was concerned
that there was a conflict of interest arising
out of the Complainant’s previous employment
with” the Fish and Wildlife Service, “it also implies
a discriminatory animus for terminating the
Complainant on the basis of his EEO complaint
against his former employer. A review of the
record shows that the Respondent’s own president
[ F e r a l ] and the Complainant’s direct supervisor
wanted disclosure of a protected activity. Further,
it admits to requesting the information and to giving
the Complainant a deadline to surrender the information.
Further, its allegations that the
Complainant was a poor writer and insubordinate
were unfounded. Finally, documentation shows
that on the day he was terminated, the Complainant
received his first written warning.”
Concluded the verdict, “The Department
now invites the Respondent to join in a collective
effort toward a just resolution of this matter. The
Respondent is requested to notify this Department
within 10 days after receipt of this Letter of
Determination as to whether it is prepared to pursue
conciliation,” with a 60-day deadline for achieving
resolution with Cox.
“Otherwise,” the Letter of Determination
warned, “failure to respond or failure to respond in
the affirmative will result in the Department processing
this case for a public hearing before the
D.C. Commission of Human Rights.”
Following his dismissal from FoA, Cox
returned to Hawaii, where he is director of
EnviroWatch (>><<) and
writes on conservation for Hawaii Fishing News.

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