San Francisco, know for being a progressive city, is currently reeling after three Black San Francisco city employees filed a class action lawsuit against the city alleging racial discrimination.
The plaintiffs, Keka Robinson-Luqman, Alicia Williams, and John Hill, filed the class action lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court. The lawsuit is alleging wide spread discriminatory practices that range from harassment, unequal pay, denial of promotions, and excessive disciplinary actions for Black workers. Robinson-Luqman, Williams and Hill are seeking not only lost wages and promotions but they are also demanding new anti-discrimination policies that the city must uphold.
Felicia Medina, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, comments that City’s discriminatory practices have “… gone on for far too long. We supposedly live in a progressive city but [the city] is so far from being a meritocracy and having equal employment opportunities.” Medina also states that they are planning to add as much as 4,000 other San Francisco Black employees to the lawsuit as well.
The lawsuit goes on to describe the discriminatory practices all three plaintiffs experienced. What has garnered even more attention is that the lawsuit also goes on to reference the data the city’s own Department of Human Resources has published on city workers. The data showcases racial inequalities through the disparities of wages, promotions and disciplinary actions as reflective of what the three plaintiffs and countless other black employees have experienced as city workers.
Keka Robinson-Luqman currently works at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, where she claims to have experienced racists comments from her manager. According to Robinson-Luqman her manager would tell her that the office “used to do things like hang nooses” and would also go on to call Robinson’s Luqman’s two-year old daughter “miss thing.”
Moreover, Robinson-Luqman claims that she was stereotyped into the “angry black woman.” This stereotype would end up hurting her chances of being promoted because in 2020 she received a performance review stating that her facial expressions made people “uncomfortable.” The review caused Robinson-Luqman’s manager to “reconsider” whether to make her Assistant Board Secretary.
Alicia Williams faced similar discriminatory actions as a licensed vocational nurse at the Department of Public Health. Back in 2012 Williams was fired after she complained about the harassment she was facing by her manager. However, in 2014 after “an arbitrator found that her managers were ‘racially tinged'” and thus Williams was given her job back. Despite this, William claims she is still facing racial discrimination as just this year she found a note that called her “the monkey, black monkey.”
The third plaintiff, John Hill, alleges being passed continuously for promotions due to race. Hill works at the Water Department of the Public Utilities Commission and claims that for years he has been passed up for promotions and was even demoted. Hill went on to complain about facing racial discrimination at work to the then PUC Chief Harland Kelly, who has since resigned due to a corruption scandal.
All three of the plaintiff’s experiences are said to be just a portion of what many other Black city employees have been facing. The lawsuit drives this point by using the city’s own data that was collected by Human Resources. One key insight the data reveals about wage disparity is that “regardless of appointment type the City pays white employees more than any other ethnic group and $15.31 more per hour, or $32,000 more per year, compared to Black employees.”
Furthermore, the data shows that white city workers are more than twice as likely to get promoted than Black city workers. In comparison Black city workers are more than twice as likely to “be released” than promoted. Another disheartening statistic the data found was that despite the city employing double the amount white city workers than Black city workers, Black employees still receive twice as many disciplinary actions than white employees.
In response, the city’s attorney spokesman John Cote released a statement to the Mission Local saying that “the city takes equal employment issues very seriously, and is committed to fostering a welcoming workplace free of discrimination or harassment.”
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