Three former employees of color are suing KidsPeace, a U.S. private charity serving the behavioral and mental health needs of children and families, for workplace discrimination, including threats of deportation.
Ashley Gonzalez, Janette Gonzalez (no relation) and Dusean Littlejohn (who shares an address with Janette) filed a lawsuit against the Philadelphia area-based charity in October 2019. Each of the plaintiffs, who were hired in 2014 and 2015, were fired in October 2018 following their feedback on the company during a work training session.
The former mental health technicians shared instances of racial discrimination, including being nicknamed “the big Black guy” and “the two Spanish girls from New York.” Instead of investigating the claims, the plaintiffs say they were each sent home following lunch, suspended and then fired.
According to the lawsuit, Ashley, who is Puerto Rican, was told by a coworker to stop speaking Spanish or “get ready to be deported because Trump is in office.” It also states that when Janette, who is also Puerto Rican, asked a supervisor for help with a tax form, she was told “all you Puerto Ricans have trouble with your money.”
KidsPeace spokesperson Robert Martin said his nonprofit, which was founded in 1882, is an equal opportunity employer that promotes workforce diversity and fosters a workplace that free from racism, bigotry or discrimination.
“We believe the claims made by the plaintiffs in this lawsuit are without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves against these allegations. Beyond that, we do not comment on specifics of pending litigation,” Martin said, according to local newspaper The Express-Times.
Court records show that a previous investigation from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission on behalf of Gonzalez, Gonzalez and Littlejohn was inconclusive.
A pretrial conference to discuss the present case is scheduled for February with U.S. District Court Judge Chad F. Kenney in Philadelphia.