A Black woman is suing LA Care, alleging she was forced to resign from her job in human resources in 2022 in frustration over nothing being done about her complaints of disparate treatment of employees of her race as well as stereotypical comments from her boss.
Marilyn Dyson‘s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, filed Dec. 30, alleges race discrimination with disparate treatment and impact, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation. She seeks unspecified damages.
“Overall, in the past few years, defendants’ human resources department … (has) consistently marginalized and subverted the careers of numerous competent, highly qualified African-American employees, forcing them to ultimately seek other employment opportunities where their race would not be an impediment to their careers,” the suit states.
La Care, which provides health insurance for low-income individuals in Los Angeles County, issued a statement regarding the lawsuit.
“LA Care Health Plan does not comment on pending litigation,” the statement read. “However, as stated in the health plan’s statement of principles on social justice and system racism, LA Care and its board of governors stand proudly with Black, indigenous, and all other people of color in America. We do not tolerate racism or discrimination in any form.”
LA Care understands that diversity in the workplace is important for the health plan’s commitment to advancing health equity, the statement further read.
According to her suit, Dyson has a master’s degree in psychology and was hired in December 2019 as a senior organizational development analyst, Level 3, in its Human Resources Department, the suit states. Dyson’s duties included leading and managing employee surveys, individual and group coaching and organizing training workshops and other employee training events, according to the complaint. Dyson reported to the chief human resources officer, Terry Brown, a white male who throughout Dyson’s employment made “numerous, egregious and disgusting racist comments” about Blacks, including telling one such employee that he “had a black nanny and loved her fried chicken,” the suit states.
Brown also made numerous derogatory comments about the hair of a male Black employee who wore his hair is dreadlocks, then told the worker that he looked “more professional” after he cut his hair to avoid further harassment, the suit states. Brown also made comments suggesting that Latino and Asian workers were superior to Black employees, including, “Asians are great workers. They’re so hard working. We need to hire more Asians,” the suit alleges. Another time, despite knowing there were numerous Black candidates for a certain position, Brown said he preferred a Latino for the job because “unlike African-Americans, Hispanics are easy to work with,” the suit states. Brown told employees that he would deny that he made such comments if anyone ever reported him, the suit alleges.
LA Care employed a medical director for diversity, Dr. James Powell, a Black physician, but it was a “largely ceremonial position as a way to maintain a false veneer that they valued diversity and inclusion in its workplace when they did not,” according to the suit, which further states Powell retired when he realized the organization had no intention of promoting diversity.
When Dyson went on leave to care for her ill mother, the plaintiff’s new supervisor, Jyl Russell, permanently took away job duties and responsibilities from Dyson and gave them to someone else “in order to punish plaintiff for going on a leave,” according to the suit. Instead of properly investigating Dyson’s complaints, LA Care hired someone whose income is largely derived from conducting investigations for the organization and the investigator found that LA Care committed no wrongdoing, the suit states.
Despite Dyson being an exceptional candidate for the open director of human resources position, the job was given to a younger white male who was less qualified, the suit states. Dyson, realizing that she would never be able to promote due to LA Care’s alleged racist and discriminatory hiring and promotional practices, was left with no choice but to resign her position in late July, the suit states.