Case Conclusion Date: June 10, 2002
Practice Area: Employment / Labor
Outcome: City Settles Racial Discrimination Lawsuit
Description: By Betty Pleasant Sentinel Staff Writer Two Employees of the Departmment of Water and Power filed suit against the city of Los Angeles last week, alleging that racial discriminnation is rife at the utility and charged that the two men were harassed on the job because their wives are African American. Carter and Serna, longtime employees of DWP, filed a complaint in Superior Court charging that the City Attorneyâ€™s Office has collaborated for years with DWP management to cover up the existence of widespread discrimination in the department. Further, the two men charged that DWP routinely provides sub-standard equipment and service to predominantly black sections of the city. According to their attorneys, Samuel J. Wells and Michael P. King, the Equal Employment Opportunity Service (EEOS) conducted an investigation in 1998 of discrimination complaints African American employees in DWP's "Touble Section." The suit sates that Carter, who broke the code of silence and spoke to the EEOS investigators about racially motivated discrimnation against black employees at DWP during the previous five years. The two men also described the discrimination and harassment they had suffered because of their marriages to African American women and because they openly opposed the racial bias they observed around them in the workplace. The two men charged in their wide ranging complaint that DWP in their lawsuit seven DWP Supervisors as having maintained a practice and policy which provided slower service or no service in neighborhoods which were predominately African American. During a news conference Thursday, Carter, 41, said co-workers joked with him before the Martin Luther King holiday last year that they should kill another African American to get another day off. "My response was, Which one of my kids would you like to kill for another holiday?'" Carter said. Carter said he then became the target of racial jokes and threats after his co-workers learned his wife is African American. Serna, 44, said that while on a lunch break with his wife, a super-visor told him that another worker reported seeing him in the conference room with a "black hooker." The suit alleges that both men became the targets of open death threats on the job and were removed from the workplace in April 1999 and placed on administrative leave for their own good. Deputy City Atty Dan Lowenthal, who handles DWP cases, expressed surprise upon learning of Carter and Serna's charges that the DWP discriminates against the black community.â€ This is the first time I've ever heard that allegation," Lowenthal said.â€ I know that the two men claim they were personally discriminated against, but I have never heard any-thing about the agency providing poor equipment and poor service to black neighborhoods until I read it in the media last week," Lowenthal continued."Such a practice is shocking to the conscience and something DWP would certainly disavow. Since the two men have made these charges, perhaps now an investigation will be launched," the deputy city attorney said.