Racial discrimination trial against American Valve ends in mistrial

By David Yates | Apr 14, 2015

A dozen Jefferson County residents failed to reach a consensus on whether American Valve & Hydrant Manufacturing discriminated against a black employee seeking punitive damages.

Alleging discrimination and retaliation, Dennis Dumes, an African American, filed suit against American Cast Iron Pipe and American Valve on Nov. 29, 2012, in Jefferson County District Court. American Cast Iron Pipe was dismissed from the suit in December.

The case went to trial April 6 and lasted nearly five days. Jurors began their deliberations on Friday afternoon.

By Monday afternoon a hung jury was declared and the affair ended in a mistrial, according to a courthouse official.

According to the second amended petition, the defendants have employed Dumes for more than 20 years, during which he has received good work performance reviews.

Dumes alleges that throughout his career, the companies repeatedly promoted Caucasians over him and even disqualified him from a potential position because of a false document in his personal file.

“Based on information and belief in the past 27 years, defendants have promoted only two black employees from a union position to a company position at the Beaumont location,” the suit states. “There have been at least ten positions filled within that time. Some of the vacancies were not posted but were given to other employees.”

After Dumes filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2010, he was given an overall negative performance evaluation.

“Defendants’ reasons for failing to promote or transfer Dumes are pretextual, manufactured to conceal unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation,” the suit states.

According to the charge to the jury, jurors found that race was not a motivating factor in American Valve's decision not to promote Dumes for any position after Aug. 25, 2009.

Jurors also found that Dumes was not subjected to harassment after Aug. 25, 2009.

However, jurors could not build a consensus on whether American Valve refused to promote Dumes because he filed a charge of discrimination or lawsuit.

Dumes was seeking damages in excess of $1 million.

Houston attorney Victoria Plante-Northington represents him.

Mehaffy Webber attorney M.C. Carrington represents American Valve.

Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court, is presiding over the case.

Case No. D193-651

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