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Seven Chicago Water Department Employees File Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination

Posted by Athena M. Herman | Aug 03, 2017 | 0 Comments

Federal law protects employees from being discriminated against by employers in the workforce. But unfortunately, it doesn't stop workplace discrimination from occurring. According to statistics compiled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the number of charges filed with the government agency substantially increased in 2016. Tens of thousands of claims were brought based on the various forms of workplace discrimination. But the standout basis of discrimination was race, which was attributed to approximately 35% of the charges received by the EEOC. These alarming statistics are a reflection of what happens every day in the workforce. And these are merely the allegations that are legally pursued. The number of instances of discrimination that go undocumented is undoubtedly staggering.

According to recent articles, the Chicago water department is one company that some of its employees are alleging exhibit discriminatory practices. A class-action lawsuit filed by seven African-American employees claims that the company denied them promotions, spouted racial slurs at them and subjected them to sexual harassment due to their race. Claims of being given undesirable work assignments as well as being wrongly fired were also included. And it comes at no surprise since this is just one of the company's many public racially charged debacles.

Just weeks before this lawsuit was filed in federal district court, a longstanding watchdog probe outed racist, sexist and homophobic rhetoric contained in water management leadership emails. Department supervisors chronically mocked the shootings of children in black and Hispanic neighborhoods by calling a tour of the places a “Chicago Safari.” The email that circulated amid high-ranking water department officials cited the number of shooting that occurred during the Fourth of July weekend and promised tourists would witness “at least one kill and five crime scenes.” The email proceeds to mention that those who go on this fabricated Safari would see “lots of animals in their natural habitat.”

Another email, which railed against a number of demographics, announced that in April it was “Hetersexual Male Pride Day!” The body of the email stated the following:

“To all my friends who are tired of taking a BACK SEAT to gays, lesbians, homosexuals, trans genders, women soldiers, bra burners, female boy scouts, women libbers, tree huggers, and eco-commie-environ-freaks, the looney left, Greens, social justice warriors and worst of all -- those f------ Democrats!”

One of the plaintiff's of the lawsuit claims that he was “humiliated, harassed, and threatened daily by co-workers.” Derrick Edmond, 57, has been working as an operating engineer at the plant for over 30 years. He alleges that he was called the “N” word and was referred to as “you people.” And that he was also denied promotion opportunities based on the color of his skin.

“In 2017, many black people at the Water Department still cannot go to work and make a living without being subject to a hostile work environment,” Edmond said.

In response to the lawsuit, Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey made a statement saying that the city would not tolerate this behavior and that it would not take the allegations lightly.

Experienced Illinois Workplace Discrimination Attorneys

If you have experienced discrimination on your job, you should consult with an attorney who has extensive experience dealing with these kinds of cases. Contact the skilled attorneys at our firm today for a consultation.

About the Author

Athena M. Herman

Athena M. Herman practices in the areas of employment discrimination law, general employment law, and civil rights law...


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Practice Areas

Workers’ Compensation
Motor Vehicle Accident
Family Law/Dissolution
Personal Injury/Nursing Home Negligence/Medical Malpractice
Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

Practice Areas

Employment Discrimination
Retaliation claims and Whistleblower in the Workplace
Class Action Lawsuit and Multi-Plaintiff Cases
Civil Rights Litigation
Employment Law