Kim Lee and Danielle Dillard, two Black women who have worked as clerks at the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department for more than 19 years, are suing the city and saying they were told to keep quiet after alleging racial discrimination.
Lee and Dillard say they were given write-ups after they complained about discrimination, and claim that they were then told not to bring that “monkey junk” to the workplace. Even after the women expressed that they were uncomfortable with the phrase, it continued to be used, according to the allegations made in the lawsuit.
In March 2019 they say they were given cease-and-desist orders that prevented them from speaking to anybody at the workplace, as well as employees of the city or county.
“I was just handed a paper, and told to obey those rules,” said Dillard.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Lee claimed in the lawsuit filed Aug. 3, that she was told to, “Come to work, do your job, and just leave,” by her supervisor. “So I just didn’t talk to nobody,” she said. “I’d sometimes cry at my desk because I want to talk to my friends. Those people were my friends and I couldn’t talk to my friends.”
Dillard reportedly refrained from speaking with coworkers as well because she feared losing her job, and spent lunch and break times crying as a result of the toxic climate.
The city and county are being sued for harassment and for failing to prevent discrimination.
Attorney Angela Alioto, whose primary practice is in workplace discrimination, is representing the women. “I don’t know how they have made it this long, all those months without being able to speak and the frustration being so horrible that they literally would cry on their lunch break or they would cry, you know, when they go home all night because they’re under these strict, oppressive rules not to speak. It’s crazy!” Alioto said of their experience.
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department has declined to comment on the lawsuit.