$21,000 for a toy monkey? Michigan's Department of Human Services (DHS) will be fined that amount after a toy ape that was placed on top of an African-American employee's cubicle was left there for three weeks.
The fine was levied by Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina after her consideration of a 2010 discrimination lawsuit filed by DHS worker Crystal Perry, the Lansing State Journal reports.
Perry had sued after fellow white employees were promoted and she was not, but the judge found no evidence last month of discrimination for that charge. But after learning that a toy ape had been placed in her workspace and was not taken down by her supervisor, however, she fined the agency $1,000 for each day of the three weeks the toy had remained on her cubicle, in addition to Perry's attorney fees, according to the Associated Press.
Perry, who has a master's degree in human resources and labor relations from Michigan State University, believes the action was racially motivated. Her supervisor said he didn't know who put the toy on Perry's work cubicle, according to the news agency.
“(It) is despicable,” said Judge Aquilina, according to court transcripts cited by the Lansing Journal. “It is not worthy of any state department. It is a continued, hostile work environment. It is upsetting. It is beneath any American.”
The Michigan DHS plans to appeal the judge's decision in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The agency also drew fire last year for taking thousands of families off the state's welfare rolls.
CORRECTION: The title of an earlier version of this article stated that Crystal Perry had been awarded $21,000 by the judge in this case. The Michigan Department of Human Services was fined $21,000 and ordered to pay Perry's attorney's fees. We regret the error.