Three non-Black employees of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and a Black colleague have reached a tentative settlement of their lawsuit against the county in which they alleged they were harassed by two Black supervisors, attorneys in the case told a judge Tuesday.
The suit was filed in March 2019 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. The tentative accord is subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors, the lawyers told Judge Theresa M. Traber during Tuesday’s scheduled final status conference. The judge issued a stay of the case.
Urbina and Williams are white, Walter is Latino and Duncan is Black. Walter, Williams and Duncan are eligibility workers and Urbina is an eligibility supervisor, the same position held by Melissa Cowart-Freeman and Vicki Jones-Boyd, the two alleged perpetrators of the disparate treatment.
Cowart-Freeman and Jones-Boyd used bullying and verbal abuse to harass the plaintiffs, the suit alleges. “Cowart-Freeman used words to the effect, ‘I have a gun and can use it at any time,’ ” according to the suit.
Cowart-Freeman allegedly targeted Williams for poor treatment, including negative evaluations, because that plaintiff was dating a Black man, while Duncan alleges that her dating of white men angered Cowart-Freeman. Urbina maintains Cowart-Freeman was unhappy that her adopted son was Latino.
“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 Cowart-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.
However, 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.