Woman charges racism at state unemployment office in Duquesne

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She says a supervisor called her “a monkey,” publicly berated her on other occasions and chased her around the office. Andrea Jones filed complaints about these incidents, through the designated channels and through her union, then later, directly to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Nothing was done, she said, except that in August she was fired.

“They called me names, denied me opportunities for training I needed for promotions, denied me union representation in disciplinary meetings and nothing was done,” she said. “They laughed about it, like it was a joke.”

This didn’t occur in a private company—it occurred in the state Unemployment Compensation office in Duquesne, Pa. She then filed a complaint with the state Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was assigned a case officer.

But Jones wasn’t the only one who complained about these incidents. The Rev. Jonathan Mitchell, who has since retired to Arizona, worked in the office with Jones and witnessed these incidents. He first requested an inquiry into the office in 2010, and likewise, got nowhere.

In October, Mitchell staged a protest outside the facility noting that Black employees had routinely been treated in a racist manner.

“Minorities have been called ‘monkeys’ and ‘spear-chuckers,’ and have and are continually being subjected to internal disciplinary investigations,” he said. “Racism is rampant at that agency; racism that has led to unfair treatment, terminations, and harassment of minority employees.”
Mitchell said he is more than willing to testify on Jones’ behalf.

But now, nearly a year after her firing and nearly four years after her initial complaints, Jones says the EEOC is stonewalling her.

She said she was fired in retaliation for her complaining about the racial and religious bias—she is also a Muslim—that she was subjected to, and that with the evidence and witnesses she’s provided, the EEOC should have found she has grounds to sue.

In a series of emails earlier this year, Jones asked EEOC administrator Roosevelt Bryant to remove her case manager John Wozniak and give her case to someone else. Clearly tired of waiting, in April she wrote:

“Is this the way the EEOC handles their complaints? I lost my job you two are working. The people that lied and discriminated against me have been promoted so have you Mr. Roosevelt while I was wrongfully terminated and I have proof. If I was White the disparate actions that were taken against me would have been stopped the first day.”

Called for comment, Wozniak said he could not say anything, even if the case was active or not. Acting Intake Supervisor for the EEOC in Pittsburgh Pat Malley said he wasn’t allowed to say whether or not such a complaint had even been received.

Meanwhile, Jones waits.

“I am not going to go away and we are working on this to let others know not to give up even though no one wants to help you because you’re Black or Muslim,” she said.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

 

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