Jury rules in favor of Western in discrimination suit

Mai Hoang

Charles Whaley spent the last two years convinced that Western officials discriminated against him in fall 2000 when he wasn’t hired for a position at the Center for Gifted Studies.

But after three days of arguments, a Warren County Circuit Court jury needed just over an hour Friday to disagree with him.

Whaley was one of 10 people who applied for the position of associate director for the center between August and December 2000. He was the only male out of five finalists who interviewed with Western. The job was eventually given to Tracy Inman, a woman.

Stephen Emery, Whaley’s attorney, tried to convince jury members that Whaley was treated differently from the other job applicants because he was a man.

“Charles was well qualified,” Emery said during his closing argument. “. Western Kentucky University has been acting to exclude males from these types of positions.”

But the jury unanimously agreed that Whaley was not rejected for the job because of his gender or a disability caused by a 1996 car accident that crushed both of the Alvaton man’s ankles.

After the verdict Friday, Emery said he was surprised by the unanimous decision.

Greg Stivers, Western’s attorney, said Whaley’s testimony during cross-examination helped Western build its case.

During the trial, Whaley testified he never received equal employment forms from Western’s department of Human Resources. That, he said, was a violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.

But forms that were signed by Whaley and sent to the department in 2000 were presented to the jury. Stivers credited Western personnel for documenting its procedures during the hiring process.

General Counsel Deborah Wilkins said Friday that she was not surprised by the verdict.

“I was confident that once they heard the proof they would come to their decision,” she said. “I think it’s a validation of the hiring process. It’s a fair and equitable process for applicants.”

Emery said he wasn’t sure what Whaley planned to do next, but that filing an appeal would be a possible option.

“The story may not be over until we make a decision to appeal,” he said. “This might just be the first chapter.”

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]