Thursday, October 21, 2010

Politico-Racial Conflict Uncovered at the Capitol Architect's Office

Office of the Architect of the Capitol: John Shinkle/Politico
(Story reported by Erika Lovley for Politico)

U.S. Capitol electrician Charles Bullock won a settlement of $15,000 this month after he filed a lawsuit alleging he was racially bullied by his white supervisor, a man who has been named in two previous racial discrimination suits settled over the past decade.

The settlement is the latest in a string of racial discrimination cases in the past 10 years involving the Architect of the Capitol’s office that reveal what some employees call a pattern of racial tension within the Capitol’s blue-collar work force of electricians, painters and laborers.

During that time, the AOC has settled at least seven lawsuits for a total of $600,900, all paid out of Treasury funds, according to D.C. District Court documents. Bullock’s case was settled earlier this month. Two other suits, filed in late 2009, are pending.

Some of the lawsuits have made incendiary claims about racist activity — including allegations in one complaint that a noose was hung in one of the Capitol’s break rooms and that supervisors used racial epithets.

The Architect of the Capitol, which oversees the workers involved in these cases, denies that there has been institutional racism. But the office would not comment on why it has settled so many discrimination cases out of court.

Bullock’s supervisor, who still worked in the AOC electrical shop as of last year, has been named in three lawsuits, settlements of which total nearly $200,000. The AOC would not confirm whether the supervisor still works there.

The supervisor “would often make racially charged jokes that were directed at Bullock,” Bullock’s lawyers claimed in his lawsuit, saying the abuse eventually sent the plaintiff to the hospital with severe anxiety attacks.

“If [the supervisor] saw [Bullock] walking toward him, he would purposely make a racially charged joke as soon as he was in earshot.”

(Click here to read the full story on the Politico website.)

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