An ex-Seattle city worker is suing his former employer, alleging he was discriminated against because of his white race.
Joshua Diemert claims he was forced to work in a “racially hostile work environment,” and working for the municipality was unbearable because he was forced to attend training sessions about ending “institutionalized racism and race-based disparities in City government” and made to feel guilty about being white.
The lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star says the workplace hostility stemmed from the city’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI), launched in 2004 to address “institutional racism” and to achieve racial equity in Seattle. The plaintiff says although the initiative was created to level certain playing fields, it actually disenfranchised him.
“The City routinely urged Mr. Diemert to join race-based affinity groups and required him to participate in training sessions that demeaned and degraded him based on his racial and ethnic identity. He was chastised and punished for combating racially discriminatory hiring practices by [Department of Human Services] colleagues,” the complaint says.
The Pacific Legal Foundation filed the claim on behalf of Diemert in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington on Nov. 16 against Seattle and its mayor Bruce Harrell. It claims during the eight years he worked at the city’s Department of Human Services, he was denied a reasonable pathway to career advancement, harassed and denigrated because he is white, and after complaining he faced retaliation.
Diemert worked as a program intake representative for the department from 2013 to 2021. Pacific Legal alleges that during that time their client felt as if he was wearing a “badge of inferiority” after attending the required two-day training in 2019 called “Undoing Institutional Racism.” He was forced him to listen to lessons on “white privilege” and “collective guilt that white employees must shoulder for societal inequities,” the complaint says.
The RSJI training allegedly required him to examine racism that might be embedded in his lifestyle and acknowledge that racialized discrimination is systemic.
“The goal of the training was to turn these employees into white ‘accomplices’ who would interrupt the ‘whiteness’ that they saw in their colleagues,’ ” the claim says.
Diemert also claimed that the facilitators of the workshop said “white people are like the devil,” “racism is in white people’s DNA,” and “white people are cannibals.”
The former city worker said he was constantly being coerced to join groups to work on race issues, feeling if he did not comply he would be retaliated against and even more experience hostility from his co-workers and supervisors.
As the city sought to promote diversity and inclusion, Diemart became bothered. He claims the city’s messaging around race in emails, meetings and during casual conversations was racist, overwhelming, and targeted employees of European descent.
The lawsuit alleges:
“Mr. Diemert’s colleagues used their work emails to berate and entertain violence against him, referring to him as ‘some a–hole,’ the ‘reincarnation of the people that shot native Americans from trains, rounded up Jews for the camps, hunted down gypsies in Europe and runaway slaves in America,’ noting that it was not worth addressing his concerns because he would ‘just come back with more stupidity,’ and that someone should ‘get a guy to swing by when Josh is in the restroom and beat him bloody.”
Diemert claims when he objected to the messaging in required training, he was called names like “white supremacist” by other attendees and was subjugated to other co-workers pounding him with race— where he felt bullied and forced to think negatively about his whiteness.
“His supervisors and other colleagues continually dismissed his concerns over a period of years and claimed he could not be a victim of racism and discrimination because he possessed ‘white privilege,'” lawyers wrote in the complaint. “And he was denied opportunities for advancement by the City based on his racial and ethnic identity.”
The complaint claimed Diemert felt like his race was an “albatross around his neck,” and the anti-white discrimination grew “increasingly pervasive and hostile” over the years, which eventually violated his constitutional rights, specifically the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Pacific Legal, which took the case pro bono, said its client is seeking “compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $300,000 for the salary that [he] was denied as a result of being discriminatorily denied promotions and constructively discharged as well as for his mental pain and suffering, and for the Defendants’ blatant and unrepentant violations of Mr. Diemert’s civil rights.”
“Instead of supporting its employees and providing them with opportunities, the City of Seattle is encouraging racial discrimination and harassment through its Race and Social Justice Initiative,” Laura D’Agostino of the PLF said in a statement. “Seattle employees should be treated as individuals with dignity and evaluated by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”
The communications director for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office has acknowledged that the city received the lawsuit.
“Our office has is [sic] aware of this complaint and we are currently reviewing the allegations against the city,” Seattle spokesperson Anthony Derrick told FOX News. “As we are unable to comment on ongoing litigation, the City Attorney’s Office has no further statement at this time.”