City responds to discrimination complaints at Madison Metro

Female African-American employees prepare rebuttals to city's denial of discrimination
City responds to discrimination complaints at Madison Metro

An attorney working on behalf of the city of Madison said the state should dismiss discrimination complaints filed against Madison Metro. The responses cite statutes, applications and union rules to make its case.

In July, four women working for Madison Metro filed discrimination complaints with the state Department of Workforce Development, specifically the Equal Rights Division.

Lisa Banks, a full time bus driver since 2008, said she was denied a supervisor position earlier this year because of her race. She also pointed out the lack of black managers at Madison Metro in her complaint.

In the city’s response, it explains that Banks scored seventh out of 13 in the interview process for the supervisor position, and therefore, was not promoted.

Soncerethia Clair-Thomas has worked for Madison Metro since 1997. She wrote in her complaint that she was denied supervisor positions three times in the past two years. She claimed those jobs went to white applicants with lower seniority.

In response, a lawyer referred directly to the job descriptions for the positions Clair-Thomas applied for. Two of them required experience as a supervisor and two years of college training. According to Clair-Thomas’ application, she had neither.

In addition, the city said it was another department outside of Madison Metro that made the decision to dismiss Clair-Thomas as a qualified candidate.

In parts of her complaint, Nicole Sampson said her manager had been overly critical of her performance because of her race. Sampson also said she performs the duty of a more highly-paid white counterpart, while still in a third shift position making less money.

The response said Sampson made “a number of vague, unsubstantiated allegations” in her complaint.

The city outlined the interaction between Sampson and her co-workers, saying that actions seen by Sampson as disciplinary were not always aimed solely at her. The letter in response to Sampson’s complaint also explained how her immediate boss outlined certain procedures that Sampson did not follow.

Rukiya Swan has worked for Madison Metro in various capacities since 1998. Swan claimed in her complaint that her test scores throughout an application process were higher than others who went for a customer service position in December 2013. However, she did not get the job.

The city’s response drafted by Boardman & Clark law firm said, “Metro’s hiring practices are not discriminatory, but based upon job-related and neutral criteria.”

In the hiring situation last year, the attorney pointed out the city disqualified four other white applicants for the same position, two of whom had higher test scores than Swan.

In every response, the letters to the Equal Rights Division cites a statute, stating that any complaint referencing a particular incident of discrimination must be filed within 300 days of the incident. Almost all of the complaints referred to hiring situations outside of that window of time.

The Department of Workforce Development will now assign the case to an investigator.

Clair-Thomas said the women involved are working on rebuttals to the city’s response. They are also considering hiring an attorney to help on the legal end of the process.

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