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.
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.
· 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.
· 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.