A black staffer reportedly has filed a lawsuit against Illinois Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider’s office for allegedly creating a “racially insensitive” work environment.
Patrice Campbell, a constituent services representative, said in a lawsuit filed Thursday that her supervisor, Karyn Davidman, “created an intolerable hostile work environment” because of Campbell’s race, Politico reported.
In one incident cited in the lawsuit, she claimed Davidman told a story about constituents using lanyards to hold face masks around their necks.
“You are going to have to get a rope and put it around your neck,” the supervisor allegedly told Campbell, who is the only black staffer in Schneider’s office.
Campbell was “taken aback by Davidman’s obvious reference to lynching” and told her boss that it was inappropriate, according to the Washington Examiner.
Davidman responded that “rope” was a reference to a “lanyard.”
“Fully aware that she was targeting Plaintiff and making light of a horrific reality, Davidman even mentioned that her husband had warned her that her statement to Plaintiff was totally inappropriate,” the lawsuit said.
The next day, Davidman wrote an email to Campbell and asked her to “put your face on camera please” during a staff meeting, according to the lawsuit. She retold the story during the staff video call and “laughed hysterically.”
“You should have seen your face when I told that story!” Davidman allegedly told Campbell after the video conference.
Matt Fried, a spokesman for Schneider, said in a statement to Politico that Campbell’s lawsuit “does not provide a complete or accurate representation of the issues or her treatment by any office personnel.”
“The Office looks forward to responding to Plaintiff’s allegations in Federal Court at the appropriate time and is confident that it will be exonerated in due course once all the facts are known,” Fried said.
He added that the office had taken “prompt and appropriate corrective action to address Ms. Campbell’s initial complaint.”
Following the March incident, Davidman was given a week of paid administrative leave and was told she would no longer supervise Campbell, according to Politico.
Campell’s portfolio was also reduced to limit her interactions with Davidman, prompting Campbell to take a month of unpaid leave.
According to her lawsuit, Davidman’s actions were not limited to the incident in March.
Davidman made frequent “off-hand comments that are, at best, racially insensitive, if not outright discriminatory,” Campbell said.
She said she also was the only one assigned casework for African-Americans, which made her feel like the “black people representative.”
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