A bench trial last month found no evidence of racial discrimination in the case of Crystal Perry, 47, a black woman in the department's child support office, but Ingham County, Mich., Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina expressed outrage at the 5-foot-tall toy monkey placed over Perry's desk after she inquired of her supervisor, a white male, why she was passed over for promotion.
Aquilina fined the agency $21,000, $1,000 for every day the toy sat atop Perry's cubicle, and ordered the agency to pay Perry's legal expenses, the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal reported Monday.
Perry's supervisor said he did not know who placed the toy there.
Aquilina called the action "despicable. It is not worthy of any state department. It is a continued, hostile work environment. It is beneath any American," in a transcript of her Jan. 10 ruling.
Perry, holder of a master's degree in human resources and labor relations, said, "It truly belittled me. It made me feel less than a person."
The agency intends to appeal the ruling, spokesman David Akerly said.
Perry's lawsuit was among at least three filed recently, alleging discrimination within DHS. Last year, Cynthia Jackson, Perry's former co-worker and a black woman, won nearly $40,000 and a promotion in a judgment in 2012, but died in January. A class-action suit by over 580 minority male DHS employees, who claim discrimination based on race and ethnicity, will go to trial in March, the newspaper said.