Two University of Maryland Facilities Management employees filed a lawsuit against this university Monday, alleging they faced a hostile work environment and retaliation for complaints they filed.
Michael Bell and DuRay Jones, both of whom are black, are suing for racial discrimination, defamation and the infliction of emotional stress. They are each seeking $1.5 million from the university, as well as an injunction preventing further discrimination from the department.
"Equitable employment is certainly policy and practice at this university, and it's also a priority," a university spokesman said. "That being said, the university does not comment on ongoing litigation."
Bell and Jones initially filed a complaint in 2013 that expressed concerns about job safety. Bell, a high voltage electrician, and Jones, an electrical system reliability technician, claimed they were given work assignments outside their job descriptions, according to the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
The majority of these claims were refuted by the department. Afterward, the men received complaints regarding communications problems on their performance evaluations. They were written up for things that white employees were not chastised for doing, such as being late to work, according to the suit.
In December 2013, Bell's car was broken into and his work phone was stolen. He received a write-up for the incident, but not a new phone. Other white facilities workers received no write-up and a new phone after similar incidents, according to the suit.
The pair sent another letter to Facilities Management officials in 2014, asking that their claims be addressed, but the department took no action, according to the suit.
Later that year, a photo of two "wild mustang horses" appeared in the department lunchroom, bearing the names of Bell and Jones.
In summer 2015, Bell and Jones were assigned jobs outdoors in "extreme heat" while other white workers were given jobs indoors, the suit read. Bell and Jones also had to work outside during "cold weather and snow" in winter 2015.
Bell and Jones filed complaints in 2015 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Civil Rights. After a resolution couldn't be reached through negotiation, they were given notice of their right to sue in March.
A similar suit was filed against the Facilities Management Department in 2012. Abraham Goodwin, a black man who worked in the department at the time, sued this university, alleging racial discrimination and a hostile work environment. Goodwin ultimately settled with this university.