Damage Award Upheld for Fired Prison Psychologist

A prison psychologist will keep the $1 million damage award from jurors who found she was fired, at least in part, because she is African-American, a state court of appeal has ruled.

The Third District Court of Appeal upheld the jury verdict last week in a non-precedential ruling, there was no question some of the department’s witnesses lied at the trial and contradicted each other on key factual issues.

A Sacramento County Superior Court jury awarded Terralynn Renfro $945,000 in a 2011 trial, ina 9-3 holding that her race was the central factor in her firing.  Jurors also voted 10-2 that there was no legitimate non-discriminatory reason for her firing.

Renfro was terminated from Mule Creek State Prison, southeast of Sacramento in 2007, after the state argued she was fired for insubordination and violation of prison protocol.

Renfro’s supervisor, the prison’s chief medical officer, who is also black, was not present the day she was fired and testified he did not know about it until after the fact.  His assistant testified that the chief medical officer had approved the termination.

Renfro presented evidence that contradicted the state’s claims.

The appeals court found the evidence of discrimination was “thin” but sufficient to support the verdict.

Renfro had worked at several prisons since 2000, but could not get another prison job after her firing from Mule Creek.

Case:  Renfro v. Dept. of Corrections, C070371


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