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California water department faces racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) was recently accused of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. The city of Oroville in Northern California sued the water agency, claiming its toxic work environment was responsible for the Oroville Dam spillway disaster in February last year.

The lawsuit made several allegations against the DWR. In one disturbing incident, an African American employee said he found a noose hanging in a frequently used staff meeting room. Because the supervisors failed to take any action over the matter, the lawsuit claimed the worker had to remove the noose himself.

According to the complaint, the same employee was allegedly called a racial slur and found a doll hanging inside his locker. The worker, who was one of just two African American employees hired at the dam in two decades, was also told his job was “not like picking cotton.”

However, racial discrimination was not the only workplace problem at the water agency. The lawsuit claimed that female employees faced pervasive sexual harassment and intimidation. Those who complained about the harassment were physically threatened outside of work.

In addition, supervisors unfairly favored their friends for overtime work rather than offering it to all employees. Outside experts compiled a report that said the state water department’s toxic work culture ultimately played a key role in the mismanagement of the dam’s maintenance.

Sexual harassment and racial discrimination in the workplace are illegal. Workers who have experienced such behavior from employers or coworkers should speak to a knowledgeable employment attorney to learn about their legal options.

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