One former and one current employee of the California African American Museum in Exposition Park are suing the institution, alleging the executive director sexually harassed them and said he preferred to date uneducated women during the pandemic because the smarter ones would not visit with him.
Charlene Powell and Kennedy Mims brought the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, also naming as defendants museum Executive Director George O. Davis, the state of California and the California Science Center. The suit’s allegations include gender harassment and discrimination, retaliation and false promise/intentional representation.
“The state of California openly permitted … Davis to run the (museum) as if it were his own kingdom, where employment laws and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act did not apply to him,” the suit alleges.
The women seek unspecified damages in the complaint filed Friday.
Todd Hawkins, president of the museum’s board of directors, issued a statement regarding the suit.
“The California African American Museum takes allegations of harassment and discrimination seriously, but declines to comment on pending litigation,” Hawkins said.
Powell was hired in April 2018 as an administrative assistant, according to the suit, which does not say what position was held by Mims. Powell agreed to accept a part-time role with the understanding that it would eventually become a full-time job, the suit states.
Throughout the plaintiffs’ employment, Davis subjected them to ongoing gender harassment, creating a hostile, intimidating and illegal work atmosphere, the suit states.
Davis made “highly improper and obviously unwelcome comments” about the two women’s appearances, attire and belongings, the suit states. He told Mims that she was not “business minded” and that women were better at taking care of food and not as good making large-scale financial decisions, according to the suit.
Davis referred to the plaintiffs and other women as “missy” or “dear” over their objections, given that they are both Black and the words have negative historical meanings, the suit states.
Davis said one female employee resembled a man so much that her features were not feminine enough and she could identify as transgender, the suit states.
When coronavirus social distancing protocols took effect, Davis said he preferred to date uneducated women because the smarter ones he wanted to date during the pandemic would not visit with him, the suit states.
When Mims complained about Davis, he allegedly sent an email telling her she was fired while on vacation, the suit states.
Powell contacted the museum’s whistleblower hotline and filed a complaint about Davis, who found out about her action and “made clear to Powell that he was very angry with her for complaining about him and that she would pay the price,” the suit states.
Davis stripped Powell of her job duties, excluded her from staff meetings and did not give her a full-time position as he promised the suit states. She also was not fully paid for the hours she worked, the suit states.
The stress on Powell prompted her doctor to eventually place her on medical leave, the suit states.
Although Powell received a communication from the museum’s human resources department in December confirming that she was harassed by Davis because she is a woman, no effort was made to accommodate her for her mental stress and anxiety, the suit alleges.
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