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.