City Sued for Racial Discrimination

By: 
Eric Bailey

A class action lawsuit has been filed against the City of Long Beach alleging that the city has discriminated against Black employees for decades.

The lawsuit filed June 10 lists five current and former employees as plaintiffs: Christopher Stuart, Eric Bailey, Deborah Hill, Sharon Hamilton and Donnell Russell Jauregui. The plaintiffs claim the city has kept Black employees in lower-paying and unclassified positions at a disproportionate rate compared to non-Black employees, rejected promotional requests and cultivated an “anti-Black culture” among city employees.

“Black city employees have been meeting behind the scenes for years, literally years and discussing this hostile work environment, pay discrimination [and] promotion discrimination among themselves, trying desperately to find a way to get ahead of this,” said Shauna Madison to the Los Angeles Times, one of the group’s attorneys. “Finally, this all has come to light.”

Madison, along with fellow attorney Felicia Medina of the firm Medina Orthwein, LLP are representing the five plaintiffs, but expect more to come forward as more employees become aware of the lawsuit.

Kevin Lee, the city’s chief public affairs officer, claims the city has yet to receive legal documentation of the case, but released in a a written statement, “The city of Long Beach is committed to maintaining a discrimination-free workplace for all city employees and candidates for employment and takes pride in its diverse workforce.”

The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs are seeking “a truth and reconciliation commission in order to heal from the racial trauma inflicted by the city, a revamped job analysis and valuation policy, back pay for past pay inequities, a trauma-informed complaint investigation process and racial justice monitoring.”

The truth and reconciliation commission is expected to align with the “Framework for Reconciliation,” a resolution the city put forth June 23 of last year in response to the nation’s outcry over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“The main ask is for people to speak their own truth and not have it erased by the legal system, not have it erased by leadership and not have to have suffered in silence,” Medina told the LA Times. “That’s what reconciliation, that’s what healing is.”

After a 35-year career with the city’s Public Works Department, Eric Bailey retired in February as a refuse supervisor; a title that came with a lower pay scale than that of a street sweeper supervisor, the department Bailey actually oversaw.

“My non-Black predecessor had the proper title and pay. And another one of my non-Black peers was promoted before me on two occasions,” Bailey said in a statement. “Street-sweeping employees are 50% Black, but only one out of seven members of the management team is Black. This is wrong and has to stop.”

The lawsuit is the newest in at least two other similar recent cases. The city reached a settlement for over $700,000 in May regarding claims that the city’s Civil Service Director Kandice Taylor-Sherwood discriminated against Black employees.

Taylor-Sherwood resigned from her role with the city for undisclosed reasons and has failed to respond to comments since her departure. She is also the defendant in a pending lawsuit filed by another former Civil Service and Public Works employee.

Donell Russell Jauregui, one of the plaintiffs in the new lawsuit, described a hostile work environment with Taylor-Sherwood, who she said repeatedly rejected her requests for a promotion and raises.

Russell Jauregui received a promotion after seven years to an administrative assistant, but claims she was notified within two weeks of her appointment that the promotion was a “mistake” and that the city claims her previous salary was “more than fair.”

The lawsuit and claims of racial discrimination within the city don’t seem to be isolated incidences. The Beachcomber reported in March of racial discriminatory practice with the Long Beach Police Department after speaking at length with a self-appointed historian; Mark McGuire, a detective who retired in 2015.

McGuire’s research shares longstanding discriminatory practices such as not hiring a sworn Black female officer until 1970; a statistic that stands out in comparison to the Los Angeles Police Department who hired their first Black female officer in 1919. Of the over 800 sworn officers within LBPD, only five are Black women and none have rank higher than patrol officer.

Category:

Add new comment

Beachcomber

Copyright 2021 Beeler & Associates.

All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced or transmitted – by any means – without publisher's written permission.