Earlier this week, two employees at the University of Maryland in College Park filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination, seeking $1.5 million.
DuRay Jones and Michael Bell, both facilities management workers and African-American, accuse the university of fostering a hostile working environment and hit back, when they spoke out about misconduct and inflicted intentional emotional distress.
The lawsuit, which names the University System of Maryland and three facilities management officials as defendants, was filed in the U.S. District Court Monday.A university spokesman refused to decline to comment due to ongoing litigation.
“Equitable employment is certainly policy and practice at this university and it’s also a priority,” said a spokeswoman for the University of Maryland, Katie Lawson. “That being said, the university does not comment on ongoing litigation.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Christal Edwards, said the lawsuit follows in the long line of racism experienced on the College Park campus.
A noose was discovered in a fraternity house kitchen and white nationalist flyers were posted around campus earlier this year. In May, white University of Maryland student, Sean Urbanski, fatally stabbed Bowie State University student, Richard W. Collins III, while he was spending time with friends at College Park.
“The university has been able to function and get away with it for so long that it’s readily accepted,” Edwards said.
In recent months, ProtectUMD has rallied against what they call “systemic racism” on the campus. The university unveiled a plan to fight hate and denounce racism.
“It is on all of us to stand up and fight the racism, extremism and hate that are cancers in our body politic, University President Wallace Loh said.
According to the lawsuit, Jones and Bell were treated differently than white facilities management workers.
“It’s hard, emotionally, to have your supervisor treat you unfairly every day, but still have to go into work to support your family,” Edwards said.
In April 2013, Jones and Bell wrote a letter outlining job safety concerns and sent it to the humans resources department, the lawsuit states. The following month, a performance review noted that Jones and Bell had communication problems.
According to the lawsuit, Jones’ vehicle was broken into and his work phone was taken. A supervisor wrote him up, but he was not provided with a new company phone. In similar situations, white employees were not reprimanded and received new company phones.
Later in 2014, photos appeared on the lunchroom employee board of two wild mustang horses, which bore the names Jones and Bell, the lawsuit suit.