A white dance instructor has filed suit against the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles and its Crenshaw and Inglewood branches, charging racial discrimination, wrongful discharge and defamation of character.
Anna Maria Sistare-Meyer of Santa Monica offered dance classes through her business, Children in Motion, at the Crenshaw YMCA, 1006 E. 28th St., and at the Inglewood Family YMCA, 319 E. Kelso St.
In a lawsuit filed May 25 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Sistare-Meyer claims that despite what she said was the overall success of her program, black supervisors at the two YMCA branches conspired to break her contract.
Larry Rosen, president of Metro YMCA, called the accusations "unfounded, meritless and absurd."
Sistare-Meyer is seeking about $100,000 in general and compensatory damages. "If we prove there was intentional and malicious conduct in terminating my client because of race, then we'll ask for well over $1 million in punitive damages," said Drew Pomerance, Sistare-Meyer's attorney.
According to the lawsuit, Sistare-Meyer was hired by the Crenshaw YMCA in 1991, and the two parties agreed on a contract for Children in Motion to provide dance programs. As specified in the agreement, Sistare-Meyer appointed two African Americans to teach the dance classes.
The suit claims that conflicts between Children in Motion instructors and the Crenshaw YMCA staff began in January, 1993. Sistare-Meyer alleges that Crenshaw YMCA staff failed to open gymnasiums on time for the dance classes to begin and called the instructors "Uncle Tommettes." Despite her complaints to Crenshaw YMCA officials, no action was taken, the lawsuit states.
By February, 1993, Sistare-Meyer said she faced similar animosity at the Inglewood location, where she also had entered into a contract.
Her company was terminated by the Crenshaw facility without explanation on March 1, 1993, the suit states, although her contract was not set to expire until June, 1993. She was told that the Inglewood location was also canceling its contract that same day. The termination cost her $46,000 in income, the suit states.
Rosen contends that Sistare-Meyer was an independent contractor, not an employee. Dimissing an independent contractor is not like terminating an employee, Rosen said. "The basis of the suit is false because she was never an employee. The YMCA no longer required the service of that independent contractor," he said.
Because of what the YMCA stands for--diversification of races, ages and gender--Rosen said that for the YMCA to single out one individual "makes no sense."
"She made a claim, which is not true. Then she filed suit on those grounds. Then she attached false accusations (of racial discrimination and defamation)," he said. "They are not going to get a settlement. We are going to court."
The dance instructor claims that Crenshaw YMCA officials told parents that Children in Motion stopped offering dance instruction without any explanation.
When she complained to the Metropolitan YMCA, Sistare-Meyer contends, officials turned the issue over to an insurance-claims adjuster, who offered a "token sum of money" to drop the matter and release the YMCA from all claims.