Five current and former employees at a Chula Vista community college have filed a discrimination lawsuit against the institution alleging a hostility toward Black employees including calling them racial slurs and overlooking them for promotions. According to a report by the San Diego Union Tribune, about 18 months ago, researchers from the University of Southern California exposed a hostile environment at Southwestern College, especially for Black employees.
History of Discrimination Alleged
The discrimination lawsuit filed recently references USC's report and outlines the allegations made by the five employees stemming from incidents that occurred before and after the report was published in June 2018 and mirror the researchers' findings. USC's report cited disturbing incidents such as custodial staff making monkey sounds at Black co-workers through walkie-talkies and a Black employee being relocated from the main campus because a white female co-worker was "afraid of him."
The report recommended that the college issue a formal apology to Black employees, create leadership pipelines for candidates of color and change the hiring process to make it more inclusive. The Union Tribune learned that the college took some steps toward implementing the recommendations including issuing an apology, hosting a number of workshops on race and requiring implicit bias training for all hiring committee members. Southwestern also publishes annual reports of diversity.
However, a survey conducted by the college in March showed that 40% of employees still felt there was a lot of racial tension and 50% of employees said they had witnesses discrimination on campus. The survey also found that a higher percentage of Black employees were not satisfied with employee diversity and that Black employees were less likely to report positive experiences compared to non-Black employees.
What the Lawsuit Alleges
One employee, a 29-year-old Black man, said the tension between the counseling department's Black workers and everyone else was so high that he was the only Black employee to attend a training retreat. During a discussion on race, a Latino employee dismissed USC's report allegedly claiming that the campus is not anti-Black, but anti-Latino.
Another Black employee said the job of acting dean to which she applied to in June 2018 went to another candidate despite the fact that she was the most qualified candidate on paper. She believes she was denied that promotion because of her race. The lawsuit further points to a toxic "us versus them" culture that the college has allowed to fester and grow on campus.
Racial Discrimination in the Workplace
An employer is said to have committed racial discrimination when they make job decisions on the basis of race or when they adopt seemingly neutral job policies that disproportionately impact members of a specific race. Federal and state laws forbid this type of discrimination in every aspect of employment including hiring, firing, salary, job training and termination. When an employer deliberately singles out employees or job applicants of a particular race for less favorable treatment, that amounts to discrimination.
Employees who have been discriminated against on the base of race, color, ethnicity or national origin may be able to seek the following damages by filing a discrimination lawsuit:
Back pay: This refers to wages lost as a result of the discriminatory behavior, from the date of the discriminatory acts to the date of a judgment.
Front pay: These are lost future earnings as a result of the discrimination.
Lost benefits: These might include healthcare coverage, dental and vision coverage, pension, retirement benefits such as 401k plans, stock options and other profit sharing.
Emotional distress: Losing one's job because of discrimination is not only financially devastating, but also emotionally draining. Employees can seek compensation for pain and suffering as well.
Punitive damages: These types of damages are awarded where particularly egregious examples of discrimination can be found. Punitive damages are intended to punish the employer for particularly outrageous conduct and to deter other employers from engaging in similar behavior.
Attorney's fees: In addition to damages, you can recover money spent in court fees, attorney's costs and other litigation-related expenses.
If you or a loved one has suffered from racial discrimination in the workplace, please contact an experienced Los Angeles discrimination attorney who can fight for your rights and help you secure fair and full compensation for all your losses.