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Black Workers at Chicago Water Dept. File Lawsuit Alleging Discriminatory Practices

Several African-American employees at the Chicago Department of Water have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the agency of race-based discrimination.

In their complaint, workers allege a number of long-standing discriminatory practices inside the agency’s Department of Water Management, such as forcing them to resign from senior positions and passing over them for promotions. Workers also claim they were subjected to a hostile work environment, given less desirable assignments and ridiculed/harassed due to their race.

Derrick Edmond, a 30-year employee who works at the Sawyer Water Purification Plant on Chicago’s South Side, is one of eight workers suing the agency.

“Personally I feel less than me, than I am, when I have to be talked to disrespectfully especially after 33 years of service and an impeccable work record,” Edmond said.

NBC News Chicago reported that the lawsuit follows the resignation of former Chicago water commissioner Barrett Murphy, who stepped down amid reporters of an inspector general’s investigation into claims of racist, sexist and homophobic emails circulated in the department.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said Murphy’s resignation was a good start, but more must be done to rectify the years of discrimination suffered by Black employees at the department.

“We’ve 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.

Other plaintiffs in the case include current workers Katherin Ealy, Eddie Cooper Jr., Robert T. Laws and Craig Robinson; and former workers Adebola Fegbemi and Vicki Hill, according to the Chicago Sun Times. They are seeking “unpaid wages, liquidated damages, attorneys fees and declaratory and injunctive relief.”

The agency has yet to respond to the lawsuit directly, but asserted that it does not tolerate discrimination in any form.

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