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Suit accusing racism against River Valley settled for $48,000

From PennLive

WILLIAMSPORT – The city of Williamsport has paid $48,000 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit in which Shenique Coates, a former finance clerk, accused its mass transit division of being racist.

The city and its River Valley Transit System do not admit any wrongdoing and expressly deny any liability, according to terms of the settlement PennLive obtained Monday through a Right to Know request.

Coates received $28,470 in lost wages and “other income” and her attorney $19,530 to cover legal costs, the terms state.

Her suit filed last August in U.S. Middle District Court alleged her June 28 firing was due to racism complaints she made to William Nichols, River Valley general manager, and Nicole Farr, its chief financial officer.

Coates, as River Valley’s only African-American administrative employee, claimed she was subjected to derogatory comments regarding her race that included being questioned if she was related to a black criminal and enjoyed eating fried chicken.

She alleged the N-word was used in her presence as were comments such as blacks were nothing more than “shoe shiners.”

Coates contended when she complained to Nichols about the incidents, he downplayed them and said: “We are like a big family here and sometimes things are just not received as we intend.”

Her suit claimed Nichols refused to let her file a formal complaint with the city’s human relations office, saying he would handle it internally.

She accused River Valley’s assistant general manager, John Kiel, of telling her she would be playing a “dangerous game” if she reported racist comments to human relations.

Coates’ suit sought unspecified damages and an order requiring the city to promulgate a policy prohibiting discrimination.

The document stated she was told she was terminated for violating a deposit procedure and being insubordinate, both of which she denied.

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