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Monday, August 25, 2008
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Justice Department Files Lawsuit Alleging Retaliation by the City of Fort Pierce, Florida Against an African-American City Employee

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice today filed a lawsuit against the City of Fort Pierce, Fla., alleging that the city retaliated against Shirley Kirby, an African-American code enforcement officer, for complaining that superiors racially discriminated against her and three other African-American code enforcement officers.

The complaint alleges that the city transferred Kirby from the "outside duty" of inspecting structures for code violations and reassigned her to "inside duty" such as handling data entry for the other officers. According to the complaint, the city also ordered Kirby to work in a specially constructed, isolated cubicle that was unlike that of any of her co-workers, and Kirby’s white co-workers openly joked about her banishment to a "cell." The complaint further alleges that several weeks later, the city reassigned Kirby to a data entry clerk position that normally paid a lower salary than the code enforcement officer position, offered little opportunity for advancement compared to the officer position, and lacked the flexibility, public interaction, independence, and prestige of the officer position. The other three African-American officers have a separate pending private lawsuit against the City alleging their own claims of racial discrimination and retaliation.

"Title VII protects not only those who have suffered discrimination; it also protects those who alert the employer to discrimination in the workplace," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department will continue to enforce the laws that ensure employees can work in environments free of discrimination and unlawful retaliation."

"Race discrimination in the workplace, as in the housing market, is illegal," said R. Alexander Acosta, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. "The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to enforcing workplace anti-discrimination laws, to help ensure equal treatment for all employees and to protect from retaliation those who blow the whistle on these illegal practices."

The continued enforcement of Title VII, which among other things protects discrimination in public accommodations, continues to be a priority of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. This is the seventh Title VII lawsuit the Civil Rights Division has filed in 2008. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its Web site at