White Man Awarded $150,000 in Racism Lawsuit

A federal jury awarded a white man $150,000 in a racial discrimination lawsuit Wednesday.

Mark Pasternak, who is white, said he was dismissed from his state job helping troubled youths because he could not tolerate being called names like "cracker," "polack" and "stupid white boy."

A seven-member all-white jury found that Tommy Baines, who is black, discriminated against Pasternak and created a hostile work environment.

"I'm elated and overwhelmed," Pasternak told The Buffalo News Wednesday. "I feel like I've been to hell and back ... After all these years, the best feeling is, the jury heard his story and mine, and they believed me."

Pasternak's attorney, David Seeger, said his client took abuse from Baines for three years while the two men worked with an agency formerly known as the state Division for Youth. The facility is no longer in operation.

Baines subjected Pasternak to race-based slurs, job sabotage and crude insults in front of co-workers, according to court papers and testimony.

Baines and his attorney, William Hites, did not return calls seeking comment.

According to court records, the state investigated the racial allegations in 1998. Baines was fined $2,000 for his conduct, but he was allowed to continue working as a supervisor.

Pasternak claimed he experienced to insomnia, anxiety and depression and had to take several medical leaves of absence because of the verbal abuse.

He was dismissed by the state in 1999. The state later offered Pasternak his job, but he said he turned it down because the state refused to guarantee he wouldn't be working under Baines again.

Brian Marchetti, a spokesman for the state office, had no immediate comment Wednesday.

"When I was growing up, I was always taught to stay away from racial slurs ... and epitaphs," Pasternak said. "This kind of conduct, from a supervisor who worked with kids, really bothered me."