Lawsuit Says Black City Employees Faced Racial Slurs, Were Denied Promotions At Water Department

A new lawsuit filed Thursday against the city claims that black employees of Chicago’s Water Department were discriminated against, sexually harassed, denied promotions and spoken to with racial slurs.
The lawsuit was filed by seven employees, some current, some former, with hopes of earning class-action lawsuit status to extend its impact. The filing paints a disturbing picture of racism inside the water department, including alleging that the employees were regularly subjected to racial slurs and other demeaning language, including the n-word and being called “you people.” Additionally, ” “Black female employees are called bitches and whores on a regular basis,” according to the suit. The Sun-Times has published the suit here.
The suit follows recent leadership changes at the Water Management Department and the release of racist and sexist emails written between ex-department heads. The city recently appointed Randy Conner as the new water department commissioner; Conner, who is African American, was promoted to replace Barrett Murphy, the ex-comissioner who recently resigned with two other colleagues after an inspector general report revealed racist and sexist emails were being sent among department employees.

Lawsuit Alleges Discrimination in Chicago’s Water Department

CHICAGO (AP) — Black workers at Chicago’s Department of Water Management have filed a federal lawsuit contending they were routinely denied promotions and subjected to racial slurs.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court also asserts blacks were also sexually assaulted because of their race. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven current and former employees of the department, and it seeks class-action status.

The lawsuit alleges that when complaints were filed about a hostile work environment, black workers were “subjected to unfair, arbitrary and capricious discipline for speaking out.”

The complaint comes weeks after the leadership at the water department was shuffled after a probe uncovered racist and sexist emails shared among department supervisors.

City officials did not have an immediate response to the lawsuit.

The love keeps on giving at the City of Chicago Department of Water Management. Rahm Emanuel is very mad. Very mad. Rahm Emanuel wants to fire all the workers on cocaine and stop the drug sales at the Water Department. It will never happen.

Lawsuit Follows Shake-Up At Chicago Water Department DOWM

(CBS) — Seven employees of Chicago’s Water Department filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday morning, claiming they were denied promotions, subjected to racial claims and sexually harassed because of their race.

CBS 2’s Sandra Torres has details.

“I feel less than the man that I am when I’m talked to disrespectfully,” says 57-year-old Derrick Edmond.

He refers to the treatment he’s received while working at the south water purification plant. He’s among the Water Department employees in the suit who say, in part, “black employees are humiliated, harassed, and threatened daily by co-workers.”

“In 2017, many black people at the Water Department still cannot go to work and make a living without being subject to a hostile work environment,” Edmond says.

Edmond has been working as an operating engineer at the plant for over 30 years.

In the lawsuit, he claims:

-supervisors denied him promotion opportunities because of his race.

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-they called him the “N” word and referred to him as “you people.”

-he was disciplined in retaliation for speaking out against his treatment in the department.

“All of their stories are consistent from top to bottom,” attorney Vick Anderson says.

In May, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Water Department Commissioner Barrett Murphy after an investigation uncovered racist and sexist emails.

Attorneys say employees now want justice.

“This lawsuit falls on the heels of our mayor of our city having to acknowledge that the culture of the Water Department is indeed hostile and abusive,” William C. Martin says. “This is the next step in this admission process.”

Two plaintiffs are women and five are men; attorneys say at least 30 others have reached out to them with similar claims.

A spokesperson for Emanuel issued this prepared statement in response to the lawsuit:

“The City of Chicago has no tolerance for discrimination of employees in any form, and while we cannot comment on this lawsuit specifically, the City does not take any allegations of this nature lightly. The Mayor recently appointed a new commissioner and is committed to providing the support and resources necessary to implement changes and address issues at the Department of Water Management.”

Patrick McDonough, a City of Chicago Department of Water Management employee has complained of discrimination to two decades. Frank Coconate joins the lawsuit.

Chicago Water Management Employees File Discrimination Lawsuit By Charlie Wojciechowski

Archie High 2017-06-29_19-13-18.jpg

Chicago Clout’s Archie High tells all.
Derrick Edmond has been an employee in the Chicago Department of Water for over 30 years, but he’s now part of a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against management of the agency.
Edmond, an employee at the Sawyer Water Purification Plant on the South Side, is one of eight employees filing suit against the agency.
“Personally, I feel like a little bit less than a man than I am when I have to be talked to disrespectfully, especially after 33 years and an impeccable work record,” Edmond said.
The lawsuit alleges a long-standing and wide-ranging pattern of racial discrimination inside Chicago’s Department of Water Management.
According to the suit, Edmond and others were assigned less desirable shifts and days off, given less desirable work assignments, denied promotions and transfers and were intimidated and harassed because of their race.
“They came to us and told us they had been living in a poisonous environment, literally living in the sewer,” attorney Victor Henderson told reporters.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of the resignation of former Chicago water commissioner Barrett Murphy, who left his office amid reporters of an inspector general’s investigation into racist and sexist emails by the department.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case say that resignation was a good start, but more must be done to correct what they say has been decades of discrimination at the department.
“We have filed this lawsuit because in 2017, many black people at the water department still cannot go to work and make a living without being subjected to a hostile work environment,” Edmond said.
The plaintiffs in the case allege that the environment not only made it difficult to come into work on a daily basis, but also held them back in their careers with the department.
“All of their stories are consistent, from top to bottom,” Henderson said. “We are hoping the city responds favorably because they have already taken some action.”

Water Dept. employees file lawsuit, allege black workers ‘spit on,’ ignored daily

CHICAGO — Seven African-American employees in the Chicago Department of Water filed a class action lawsuit in federal court today. The plaintiffs say they were subject to a poisonous work environment where black workers were “spit on” and ignored every single day.

In the complaint, the workers claim they were passed over or denied promotions in favor of white employees or workers from other plants, and were not given the opportunity to transfer if they were unhappy.

They allege they were subjected to racial slurs and sexually harassed because of their race.

Two employees who spoke to reporters today — one a 30 year veteran, the other a 40-year veteran of the department — say they were nameless and faceless every day while they were responsible for bringing millions of Chicago residents fresh water. Today, they say, they are no longer voiceless.

The plaintiffs are seeking more oversight within the department. They are not putting a monetary number on specific damages yet.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys say they’ve already gotten calls from more than 30 other Water Department employees saying they, too, were subject to what they’re calling a “hostile work environment” for decades.

Water Management employees file federal lawsuit

CHICAGO 06/29/2017, 12:02pm A bronze plaque hangs outside of Chicago’s City Hall
A group of employees have filed a class-action lawsuit over workplace conditions at the city’s Department of Water Management.
Fran Spielman

The pre-emptive strike didn’t work.

On Thursday, four current and two former Water Management employees filed a federal lawsuit against the city and the department at the center of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals.

The lawsuit accuses the city and top Water Management officials of “deliberate and unlawful policies, patterns and employment practices to create and proliferate a hostile and abusive work environment based on race that includes violence, intimidation, retaliation, constructive discharge against the plaintiffs and the class of similarly situated former and current” employees.

It seeks “unpaid wages, liquidated damages, attorneys fees and declaratory and injunctive relief.”

Named plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit were identified as: current employees Derrick Edmond, Katherin Ealy, Craig Robinson, Eddie Cooper Jr. and Robert T. Laws Jr.; and former employees Vicki Hill and Adebola Fegbemi.

All six are African-American, and according to the lawsuit, all “have been subject to the ongoing and continuing violations of a hostile work environment and/or deliberate acts of discrimination during their employment based on their race.”

Indeed, the suit claims the on-the-job actions against the plaintiffs “weave a tapestry of hostility that dominates every aspect” of their job.

That tapestry includes getting less-desirable shifts and work assignments and being denied promotions, transfers, overtime and training opportunities.

Black women were routinely referred to as “bitches and whores,” the suit contends. Those who dared to complain about the discriminatory treatment of African-Americans were also punished with “unfair, arbitrary and capricious discipline, plaintiffs claim.

And in spite of a shake-up touched off by the offensive emails that has already swept out five high-level managers, the city has “done nothing to remedy” the toxic environment, the suit contends.

Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

At his confirmation hearing earlier this week, newly-appointed Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner assured sympathetic aldermen that he would “change the culture” in a department with a history of intolerance and scandal.

Conner is named as one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. So are: former Commissioner Barrett Murphy; former Ald. John Pope (10th), who is now a deputy commissioner in the Department of Water Management and three other high-ranging department officials.

Last month, a housecleaning in the Department of Water Management at the center of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals swept out Murphy, managing deputy William Bresnahan and district superintendent Paul Hansen.

Sources said Murphy — whose wife is a close friend of Emanuel’s wife, Amy Rule — was held responsible for the chain of racist and sexist emails sent by an underling whom the commissioner failed to discipline, even though Murphy was among those receiving the emails.

The Chicago Sun-Times was the first to report that Inspector General Joe Ferguson uncovered the racist, sexist and homo-phobic emails circulating in the Department of Water Management while investigating allegations that Hansen had used his city email account to sell guns.

Murphy’s ouster was a stunner, even in a city department with a history of corruption that’s notorious for its ugly, hate-filled culture.

That’s because it came at the risk of losing two close friends.

Lockwood once chaired a political fundraising committee for the mayor. She’s an Emanuel appointee to the Chicago Public Library board who helped organize the 2012 NATO Summit for the mayor and had a one-year, $160,000 consulting contract with the tourism agency known as Choose Chicago.

Last week, two more high-level supervisors were placed on administrative leave pending termination proceedings.

Thomas J. Durkin, a $106,599-a-year general foreman of plumbers, has been placed on administrative leave without pay while Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner decides whether to follow Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s recommendation that Durkin be fired. Conner who is African-American, has been given carte blanche in a department with an ugly history of corruption and intolerance.

Sources said Durkin was accused of “sending and receiving” the same kinds of racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamaphobic emails that have already triggered the ouster of three other Water Management bosses.

John J. Lee Jr., the $128,088-a-year superintendent of the Water Management’s south district, has also been placed on administrative leave tied to the email scandal.

Durkin and Lee have since resigned.

Black workers denied promotions, called racial slurs at Chicago water department: lawsuit

African-American employees of the Chicago water department routinely were denied promotions, subjected to racial slurs and sexually harassed because of their race, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday that could further roil a department that’s become a racially charged problem for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court, comes weeks after a leadership shakeup at the Department of Water Management as a months-long watchdog probe that ferreted out racist and sexist emails shared among department supervisors.
The suit was filed on behalf of seven current and former employees of the department, and it seeks class-action status, which if granted could expand its scope. The employees alleged they were denied promotions and transfers, given less-desirable work assignments, harassed and wrongly fired in some cases because of their race.
It further states that department workers routinely used racial slurs or racially charged phrases, including the n-word and “you people,” to refer to black employees, according to the lawsuit. “Black female employees are called bitches and whores on a regular basis,” the filing reads.

And when they filed complaints about a hostile work environment, they were “subjected to unfair, arbitrary and capricious discipline for speaking out,” the lawsuit alleges. Department officials “have done nothing to remedy the hostile work environment,” it adds.
The lawsuit asks for a judge to rule that department officials violated federal fair labor laws, bar further discriminatory contact, and provide lost wages and back pay to the allegedly harmed employees.
City officials did not have an immediate response to the lawsuit.

A day before it was filed, Emanuel and the City Council were singing the praises of newly appointed water department Commissioner Randy Conner, an African American man from the South Side who was promoted amid the shakeup and confirmed by aldermen Wednesday. Conner is named as a defendant in the lawsuit because of his new role, but there are no specific allegations in the 40-page filing that accuse him of any specific wrongdoing.

Conner was appointed by Emanuel to replace Barrett Murphy, a friend of the mayor’s who resigned his post as the result of a city inspector general’s investigation that turned up the racist and sexist emails. William Bresnahan, who was managing deputy commissioner, and Paul Hansen, who was a district superintendent, also resigned.
The Tribune earlier this month first reported that Hansen sent to Murphy and Bresnahan emails in early 2014 that included anti-Islamic and racially insensitive language.
Hansen also sent an email that included sexist language as he made fun of a colleague in response to a lengthy message that colleague sent to Hansen about a frozen water main.
In addition, Thomas J. Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers, and John “Jack” Lee Jr., another district superintendent, later were replaced on administrative leave pending disciplinary decisions as a result of the probe.

[email protected]

Massive Victory for Hagens Berman in Chicago. Time for Lead Free Drinking Water.

Hagens Berman Law Firm Photo Chicago Clout Lead in Water.jpg It has been awhile so I wanted to update you on what has been going on in the Chicago lead class action case. As you may remember, the judge dismissed the claims last time around. Hagen Berman with powerhouse Attorney Mark Vazquesz filed an amended complaint in January and also filed a motion seeking leave to add an inverse condemnation claim (which would permit recovery of funds to replace the lead service lines in their entirety). After some delay, the lawfirm had a hearing on that motion. Mark Vazquesz won and the judge granted the motion, allowing Hagens Berman to file the amended complaint and add Count II. The judge made several statements that reflected a favorable view of the case. In particular, he referred to two points as crucial: (1) the fact that our plaintiffs’ water still showed elevated lead levels, and (2) the fact that other municipalities, such as Boston and Madison, condemn partial lead service line replacements and don’t perform them.

EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.*
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur with an adequate margin of safety. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs). The MCLG for lead is zero. EPA has set this level based on the best available science which shows there is no safe level of exposure to lead.
Lead and copper enter drinking water primarily through plumbing materials. Exposure to lead and copper may cause health problems ranging from stomach distress to brain damage.
 
In 1991, EPA published a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. This regulation is known as the Lead and Copper Rule (also referred to as the LCR). Since 1991 the LCR has undergone various revisions, see the Rule History section below.
The treatment technique for the rule requires systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps. If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppb or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 ppm in more than 10% of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion. Information
If the action level for lead is exceeded, the system must also inform the public about steps they should take to protect their health and may have to replace lead service lines under their control.
 
*See Jose de Diego Community Academy/City of Chicago that exposed 1,100 children’s drinking water at risk of contamination on chicagoclout.com, 2007/2008.
 
EPA issued the Lead and Copper Rule in 1991 and revised the regulation in 2000 and 2007. States may set more stringent drinking water regulations than EPA.
 
In addition:
· EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual water quality report called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) for their customers.
EPA requires community water systems to deliver a Consumer Confidence Report, also known as an annual drinking water quality report, to their customers. These reports provide Americans information about their local drinking water quality.
Reports must be sent by your water supplier each year by July 1.
Reports Contain:
· The lake, river, aquifer, or other source of the drinking water;
· A brief summary of the risk of contamination of the local drinking water source;
· The regulated contaminant found in local drinking water;
· The potential health effects of any contaminant detected in violation of an EPA health standard;
· An accounting of the system’s actions to restore safe drinking water;
· An educational statement for vulnerable populations about avoiding Cryptosporidium;
· Educational information on nitrate, arsenic, or lead in areas where these contaminants may be a concern.
 
This brief summary is representing the dangers involved with lead in the drinking water for the City of Chicago Potable Water System.
Compiled by an Illinois Certified Plumbing Inspector, 2017.

Again, the City of Chicago Department of Water Management has failed to install new copper services when installing new water mains. That means all the work will need to be redone. How stupid can you be. The Chicago Water Department and the Office of the Inspector General, has failed to protect the citizens of Chicago. Thanks to the experts in Plumbing that stepped forward. A political solution will mean more failure. I am proud of my commitment to all Chicago to stand up when needed. See you in court soon.

CHICAGO — An $85,068-a-year Chicago plumbing inspector who uncovered two pages of building-code violations that left 1,100 children at Jose de Diego Community Academy without water for weeks has been hit with back-to-back suspensions of three and 15 days.

Michael McGann said Monday the actions are in retaliation for his faxing a copy of his inspection report to the school’s principal, talking with a Chicago Sun-Times reporter about the threat of disciplinary action and cooperating with an inspector general’s investigation into what McGann calls “a rash of” substandard cast-iron pipe being used on city jobs.

The Sun-Times reported in late November that McGann faced disciplinary action for violating internal rules that prohibit preliminary inspection reports from being shared with outsiders until they’re officially approved.

McGann said he gave the Oct. 24 report to de Diego principal Alice Vera so she could use the information to expedite repairs that had languished for weeks at the 116-year-old school at 1313 N. Claremont.

On Jan. 18, McGann was told he was being suspended for three days. McGann said he pulled out a tape recorder because, “I wanted a record of the event — who was saying what, who was issuing what.”

The inspector said he served his suspension even as he filed an appeal with the same officials who suspended him. Then, on Friday, he was hit with another suspension, this time for 15 days. Among other things, he was accused of “borderline insubordination” for taping the earlier meeting.

“They’re trying to get rid of me because I’m honest, and I’m exposing corruption,” McGann said. “They were totally disregarding the health and safety of students in that school, using plumbing contractors they want to put Band-Aids on it. Eighty days after the water main broke, I showed up and found E. coli bacteria in three different locations. There was still contaminated drinking water in that school. They had a full kitchen and swimming pool they couldn’t use.”

Building Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said McGann “is not being punished for sending that report out,” nor is he being targeted for blowing the whistle on alleged wrongdoing.

The City of Chicago Department of Water Management improvements.

funny picture of Luci Pope Cozzi Anderson Hansen.jpg
Two more white City of Chicago Department of Water Management employees were shown the door today. One was escorted out by new black Managing Deputy Commissioner William Cheaks. Mr. Cheaks is a no nonsense, take no bullshit, type of leader Rahm Emanuel should have put in place from the beginning. Mr. Cheaks was also with Mr. Hightower, another hard working, take no prisoners type of boss that has zero tolerance for employees that fail to wear their helmet and safety vest. The white boss had always hidden the promotion list from black employees for decades. Then the promotion list would show up for all to see when the bid was over. One must wonder where the Plumbers’ Local 130 Union is in all this? Maybe putting Mike Tierney on the union payroll has left working union members out in the cold. The only time the blacks got their fair share of the overtime is when the white guys could not do the job or the weather was too extreme. The Mt. Greenwood trash have more big money whites off Rahm’s payroll. I know for a fact blacks were cheated out of the Superintendent position for decades. Time to make things right and give blacks their fair due.

Another Chicago Department boss, the product of Plumbers’ Local 130 was shown the door also. A prior “injury” in 2014 to the leg did not stop Cheaks from putting up with his crap. An attempt to say he fell while smoking a cigarette on the dock did not stop his removal. Is this workers compensation fraud? Well when you get caught up with someone that emails you his wife is a “wig and tits”, and you do not report it, you are heading to look for another job. So, remember this simple story, when Chicago Clout is going after some stupid piece of shit, stay out of the way. Stay miles away from our targets.

Another worthless pile of crap is getting removed out of his fancy office.
Chicago taxpayers made a real fancy office, better than the Commissioner for one of the guys hooked up with a boss at the Jardine Plant. Not long ago, lover boy was visiting her at the Jardine Plant for romantic lunches. Phony business at the Jardine Plant turned into hot romantic times, and the taxpayers paid it all. I am glad new strong leadership at the water department will review all the crap Bresnahan did to unclouted injured workers.

Please fire Lucy Pope Cozi Anderson Now, fire her husband, Andy Anderson now. Please review all the clout promotions made in the last decade. Please review all the jobs the blacks and Hispanics got screwed out of for decades. You have more work to do and I will name names if you do not remove the scum that has destroyed the department. You do not see this nasty shit in other major water departments. Remember, we know all.

Two more Water Department supervisors put on leave in email investigation Chicago Water Department

Two Chicago water department officials have been suspended pending the outcome of a probe into racist and sexist emails.
Two Chicago Department of Water Management employees final.jpg

In a continuing shake-up at the Chicago Water Department triggered by the discovery of racially insensitive and sexist emails, two more supervisors now face the potential loss of their jobs, City Hall officials said Tuesday.

Placed on paid administrative leave pending disciplinary decisions were Thomas J. Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers, and John “Jack” Lee Jr., a district superintendent, said Gary Litherland, spokesman for the Department of Water Management.

Their status is the result of an ongoing investigation by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, Litherland said. A City Hall source confirmed that it was the same investigation into emails that led to a shake-up that began in May.

That’s when Barrett Murphy, the former department commissioner; William Bresnahan, who was managing deputy commissioner; and Paul Hansen, who like Lee was a district superintendent, all resigned.

The Tribune earlier this month first reported that Hansen sent to Murphy and Bresnahan emails in early 2014 that included anti-Islamic and racially insensitive language.

Hansen also sent an email that included sexist language as he made fun of a colleague in response to a lengthy message that colleague sent to Hansen about a frozen water main. “After all that long winded jib jab that i could get plenty of at home with the kotex mafia, you going back!” Hansen wrote.

Durkin was the recipient of that email, which the Tribune did not report at the time because it wasn’t yet known that Durkin was under investigation. When Durkin replied, using profanity, Hansen sent him another reply that included further sexist language and copied Lee. “Love it,” Lee responded.

Attempts to contact Durkin and Lee were unsuccessful late Tuesday.

The emails were provided to the Tribune in response to an open records request. They include just some of the messages that are part of the investigation, a source familiar with the matter said.

The probe that led to the shake-up began about nine months ago. Ferguson’s office was looking into water department emails about gun deals when it discovered sexist and racist emails, sources have told the Tribune. Hansen’s computer was seized as part of that investigation, the sources said.

Murphy, the former commissioner, is married to Lynn Lockwood, who at one time was chairman and treasurer of one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s political funds and is a friend of Chicago first lady Amy Rule.

Emanuel last month said he was made aware by Ferguson’s office of a problem with “one particular employee” and “in that process, it exposed a culture in the Water Department workplace” that doesn’t represent city values.

He also said that Murphy agreed after the emails surfaced that there should be a reset in the culture of the agency, now headed by Commissioner Randy Conner, who moved over from the city Department of Transportation.

Hansen also has political connections. He’s the son of former 44th Ward Ald. Bernard Hansen.

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Twitter @ReporterHal