An African American wastewater treatment plant operator is suing the city, claiming he was subject to racial slurs and other discrimination and harassment, and was retaliated against when he complained.
The Modesto law firm Rancano & Rancano filed the lawsuit in July in Stanislaus Superior Court on behalf of Patrick Green, who went to work for the city in January 2011, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Modesto allowed a “culture of discrimination to exist within its wastewater treatment facility.” The lawsuit claims Modesto condoned the use of the word “n-----” and other racial slurs in the workplace. Green’s lawsuit claims he was subject to “racial comments, innuendoes, insinuations, jokes and songs.” The lawsuit claims an effigy of a monkey hanging from a noose was displayed in a supervisor’s office.
“I cannot believe this is happening in the 21st century in Modesto,” attorney David C. Rancano said. “This is stuff from the 1930s. They were hangings back then.” Rancano said a supervisor sang a song that included these lyrics: “If the South had won, we’d each own one.” Rancano said he has instructed Green not to comment at this time.
Lawyers representing Modesto deny the allegations in court filings.
The lawyers also claim the city “took reasonable steps to prevent and correct alleged workplace harassment, discrimination and retaliation; that plaintiff (Green) unreasonably failed to use the preventative and corrective measures that defendant city provided; and that reasonable use of those measures would have avoided the damages alleged by plaintiff.”
Green’s lawsuit claims the retaliation he faced included having his work schedule changed, being barred from attending certain work meetings and being placed involuntarily on administrative leave.
The lawsuit claims wrongdoing by the city and other unnamed defendants, whose names will be added to the lawsuit as they become known. But it does list Utilities Department Director Larry Parlin, Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager Laura Anhalt and former Plant Operations Supervisor Joel Lindsey as defendants.
Parlin and Anhalt declined to comment. Lindsey denied the allegations. “I treated him with the utmost respect,” he said. “He was a good worker. I had nothing but respect for him. Obviously he has something on his mind. But I don’t want to comment beyond that, and I wish him well.”
Modesto had been investigating Lindsey but recently parted ways with him. As part of a settlement agreement, Lindsey agreed to resign while denying any wrongdoing, and Modesto agreed to stop its investigations and any potential discipline.
Deputy City Manager Joe Lopez has declined to reveal the nature of those investigations but said they were among those the city was conducting in the Utilities Department, which includes the city’s water and wastewater operations. The Bee has reported that one of the allegations was that Lindsey had worked a second job while calling in sick with the city.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316