LOS ANGELES – Four longtime employees of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services office are suing the county, alleging they have been discriminated against by two black supervisors.
The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Tina Urbina, hired in 1985; Maria Walter, hired in 1989; Jacqueline Williams, hired in 1994; and Angela Duncan, hired in 1986. All worked at the DCFS office in Glendora.
Urbina and Williams are white, Walter is Latino and Duncan is black.
The suit was filed Thursday, March 19, and it alleges race discrimination and harassment, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages.
A representative for Los Angeles County did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
All of the plaintiffs are eligibility workers except for Urbina, who is an eligibility supervisor just like Melissa Cowan-Freeman and Vicki Jones-Boyd, the two alleged perpetrators of the disparate treatment.
“Cowan-Freeman and Jones-Boyd used bullying and verbal abuse to harass plaintiffs,” the suit alleges. “Cowan-Freeman used words to the effect, ‘I have a gun and can use it at any time.”‘
According to the suit, Cowan-Freeman targeted Williams for poor treatment because the plaintiff was dating a black man. Duncan (who is black) alleges that Cowan-Freeman was unhappy that she liked to date white men. Urbina maintains Freeman was unhappy that her adopted son was Latino.
When Cowan-Freeman heard that Williams was dating a black man, she began giving her negative evaluations, the suit alleges.
“Plaintiffs heard Freeman say, ‘The brothers need to stay with their own kind,”‘ according to the complaint.
The four plaintiffs felt unsafe in their workplace and believed that Cowan-Freeman and Jones-Boyd were not being held accountable for their alleged misconduct, the suit states.
Urbina maintains that after she filed discrimination complaints dating back to 2013, the county retaliated by confronting her with discrimination complaints alleged to have been brought against her. But the complaints were from anonymous people and Urbina was never interviewed regarding the allegations, according to the suit.
Walter and Williams also filed complaints against Freeman and were interviewed, but were never contacted again after that regarding the results of any investigation, the suit states.