An African American employee of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is suing the district for discrimination after her white co-workers started a petition against her natural hair.
Kimberly Tigner said she decided to file suit because the ordeal humiliated her. The petition included language that her hair was “unprofessional” and “inappropriate for the workplace,” according to The Charlotte Observer.
Tigner, a career development liaison for the Career and Technical Education Department of CMS accused the district of discriminating and retaliating against her in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the lawsuit says.
“(CMS) intentionally deprived Ms. Tigner, an African American woman, of the same Constitutional rights enjoyed by white citizens as to the creation, performance, enjoyment, and all benefits and privileges of her contractual relationship with (CMS),” the lawsuit states, according to The Charlotte Observer.
But CMS countered by asking the court to dismiss the suit, claiming that Tigner couldn’t point to any “official policy, practice or custom of institutional racial discrimination.” CMS declined to comment further, when asked by the McClatchy newsgroup on Wednesday.
Tigner said she was the victim of “racially-motivated criticism and bullying” by a supervisor who allegedly circulated the petition against her natural hair, yet claimed to have “Black friends, so it was okay for her to say what she did,” according to Tigner’s complaint.
Tigner also alleges that the supervisor was racist toward her son, who was 17 at the time. In the lawsuit, Tigner said her supervisor complained of feeling threatened by his presence whenever he stopped by the office “because he was a Black male.” Tigner alleges that the supervisor used the district’s internal directory to check on whether he had a criminal record.
Tigner said the head of the department sided with her supervisor and eventually banned Tigner’s son from the school property until she could prove he was not a felon.
When Tigner complained about the treatment, she said she was reprimanded. She tried to get a new job, both inside and out of the school district, but she said she was passed over for five positions.
As a result, Tigner claimed in the lawsuit that she has developed severe anxiety.
“The harassment Ms. Tigner faced was brutal and relentless, including incidents ranging from mildly insulting to dehumanizing,” according to a brief filed Wednesday, reported the Observer.
However, in a court response CMS called the incidents isolated and said it did not constitute a hostile work environment.
“No objectively reasonable person would view the isolated incidents in the Corrected Amended Complaint to be either severe or pervasive enough to form the basis of a hostile work environment claim. Courts have rejected claims of racial harassment based on conduct far more egregious than what Plaintiff has alleged in this case,” the school district said.