Carson’s former public works director is suing the city, alleging she was fired in March in retaliation for speaking out against racial discrimination and for taking part in internal city investigations into the work environment.
Maria Elana Williams-Slaughter’s Los Angeles Superior Court, filed Monday, seeks unspecified damages and an injunction enjoining the city from engaging in further alleged discrimination and to quickly investigate future complaints.
A representative for the city of Carson could not be immediately reached for comment.
Williams-Slaughter, who is Black, was the public works director for five years and in both 2017 and 2018 received positive performance reviews, the suit states. She received several commendations and notes of appreciation from both city employees and public constituents, according to her complaint.
During the plaintiff’s employment, she was the victim of discrimination and retaliation that she alleges was directed by City Councilman Jim Dear, a former city clerk and mayor, according to her lawsuit.
“Soon after plaintiff’s hire, she would learn of Dear’s disdain for African-Americans,” the suit alleges.
Williams-Slaughter was “directly informed that Dear did not want her to be hired, simply because of her race,” her complaint alleges. “Dear felt that African-Americans were incompetent. More specifically, Dear did not want African-Americans in director level positions within Carson.”
Williams-Slaughter says she was informed of Dear’s alleged racism by multiple individuals, including several high-ranking Carson employees. She told city investigators probing employee complaints of discrimination and retaliation against Dear that she had heard he treated individuals differently on the basis of race and generally disliked Blacks, according to the suit. She sayss she also repeated that she had been told after her hiring that Dear did not want her placed in the public works director position.
The investigation found that Dear had created a severe and pervasive hostile work environment, according to the suit, which says he was censured in late 2015/early 2016 and his responsibilities were significantly reduced.
Beginning in the summer of 2015 and continuing during the next two years, Williams-Slaughter alleges she was repeatedly harassed by one or more “anonymous entities.” She reported what was happening to her, but was “met with resistance,” according to her court papers.
In November 2018, Dear was re-elected to the City Council and “it became clear that he was focusing on anyone and everyone who had previously participated in the investigation which had led to his censure,” the suit alleges. The plaintiff contends he caused two city clerk’s office employees to lose their jobs through restructuring and became angry when Williams-Slaughter hired them into her department.
On March 10, City Manager Sharon Landers, who Williams-Slaughter viewed as friendly with Dear, called for an unscheduled meeting with the plaintiff, who learned later that afternoon via a letter that she was fired, the suit states.
Landers told Williams-Slaughter that she “served at the pleasure of the city manager” and that she was “not a good fit,” the suit says.
William-Slaughter believes that the true reasons for her termination were Dear’s alleged disdain for blacks, retaliation for her protected complaints against him and her participation in several internal investigations.
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