The African-American woman claims she suffered retaliation after trying to create her own display in response.
An Oregon county has agreed to pay $100,000 to an African-American employee who felt harassed by a coworker’s decision to display a “Blue Lives Matter” flag in their office.
CNN reports that, as part of the settlement, plaintiff Karimah Guion-Pledgure agreed to resign from her job with the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice. However, Guion-Pledgure, who was a corrections technician, can still seek out other positions within the agency.
The settlement stems from a lawsuit that was filed relatively recently, in January of 2019.
Guion-Pledgure claims she felt attacked by a colleague’s decision to pin up a ‘‘Blue Lives Matter” flag in 2017. She and other African-American employees repeatedly complained about the flag, filing complaints with supervisors in late 2017 and early 2018.
She also reached out to Multnomah County’s chief operating officer last April.
According to CNN’s recap of the case, Guion-Pledgure believes Blue Lives Matter material “co-opts” the slogan and branding of Black Lives Matter, intentionally “[repurposing] it to shift focus to law enforcement—a chosen profession, not a racial identity—and thus denigrates, dilutes, and demeans the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
In July of 2018, Guion-Pledgure decided to create an “equity wall,” which included photographs of people of color killed by law enforcement in the United States. It also displayed pictures of migrant children separated from their families due to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which was terminated by court order last July.
Another coworker complained about the “equity wall” shortly after its establishment. Management, says the lawsuit, was far quicker to act—less than a day later, employees received an email saying that any personal photographs in the office should be no larger than 5-by-7 inches.
Guion-Pledgure claims that, shortly afterward, she found sticky notes where the “equity wall” used to be. One said, “thanks a lot” while another read “bitch.”
The retaliatory sticky notes were apparently so offensive that they created health complications for Guion-Pledgure, who took sick leave in July 2018.
The first rendition of her lawsuit sought $20,000 in lost wages and $400,000 for emotional distress and suffering.
The settlement, writes CNN, will be filed with the Multnomah County Circuit Court when Guion-Pledgure moves to dismiss the suit.
Guion-Pledgure, says attorney Ashlee Albies, is disappointed that leaving her job was part of the settlement.
“She’s disappointed that she has to leave there and that they couldn’t make it a safe and welcoming work environment,” Albies said. “They say they’re working on that, and we hope they really are.”