Cambridge settles long-running discrimination lawsuit
The City of Cambridge and two women announced yesterday that they have settled a workplace-discrimination case that began in the late 1990s, a battle that already has cost the city millions of dollars in a related case.
The city and the women - former Cambridge city lawyer Linda Stamper and current city employee Mary Wong - issued a joint statement declaring an end to the case. Financial terms were not disclosed.
“The City of Cambridge, Linda Stamper, and Mary Wong jointly announce that they have resolved their differences with respect to the pending claims brought by Ms. Wong and Ms. Stamper against the city. The parties are all pleased with this amicable outcome,’’ the statement said.
The statement continued: “The City of Cambridge affirms its commitment to diversity and equal opportunity, and to protecting the rights of employees in the workplace. Ms. Wong and Ms. Stamper appreciate the city’s commitment and are satisfied that resolving this matter allows all parties to move forward.’’
While the statement included the names of the women, it did not include the name of City Manager Robert W. Healy, who was in the same post in the late 1990s when Stamper, Wong, and a third woman, Malvina Monteiro, alleged racial discrimination in the workplace and accused city officials - including Healy - of retaliating against them for speaking out about it.
Monteiro won a multimillion-dollar jury verdict in Middlesex Superior Court, a decision that was upheld by the state Appeals Court in August.
With interest and attorneys fees for both sides, the case is expected to cost the city upward of $10 million.
In the Monteiro case, a judge criticized Healy for what she said was the city manager’s “deliberate, systematic campaign to punish the plaintiff as a reprisal for her effrontery in lodging a discrimination claim.’’
Yesterday, through an aide, Healy declined to comment.
A Middlesex Superior Court trial on the discrimination allegations by Wong and Stamper was nearing when the agreement was reached.
Wong is executive director of the Cambridge Kids’ Council. A city worker since 1994, she will be leaving the job this year, said her attorney, Ellen Zucker.
Zucker said Wong remains deeply committed to positive programs for children.
In a phone interview monitored by Zucker, Wong said word of the settlement circulated through Cambridge City Hall yesterday, prompting a number of women of color to express their appreciation for her fight against discrimination in their common workplace.
Those conversations, Wong said, reinforced her belief that she was right to challenge management in the first place.
“It’s been a long journey,’’ Wong said. “I’m content. I think my job is done.’’
At Zucker’s advisement, Wong would not comment on whether she has seen any change in the climate at City Hall since she, Stamps, and Monteiro aired their complaints.
Wong also would not comment when asked what she thought Healy should do.
However, Zucker said, she believes the Cambridge City Council should take a close look at Healy’s actions and the string of judicial rulings against him.
Zucker also represents Monteiro and Stamper.
Stamper left City Hall in October 1999 and has since built her own law firm focusing on children in the courts.
“Miss Wong and Miss Stamper, with the resolution of this case, believe that their work is done here,’’ said Zucker, who added she cannot disclose details of the settlement. “It’s really up to the city’s citizens and its leadership to decide what lesson they want to learn from the concerns that were raised, and the resolution, of this matter.’’
John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com.