Three employees at a Michigan medical examiner’s office in suburban Detroit were fired after a Black death investigator claimed the workplace was toxic due to rampant racism and inappropriate behavior.
The Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office terminated two technicians and an investigator as it probes claims levied by the unidentified Black staffer, according to The Detroit Free Press. A fourth employee, a supervisor, is on paid administrative leave.
The accuser filed a complaint on July 18 with the county human resources department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency. The complaint listed several incidents, culminating with a sexually explicit cake.
“There has been an ongoing hostile work environment within the Medical Examiner’s Office since I have been here,” the complaint read. “The office culture is tainted with racism toward people of color. This was not only ignored by managing personnel but participated in by the supervising staff.”
She alleges she was pushed to deal with Black families who were considered “hostile” and “difficult” and told, “Go deal with your people.” When an upset Black family damaged a door at the office, the complaint said, the supervisor asked about their race before saying “They can break the doors and nothing will happen to them with everything going on, because they are black. They’ll just say they were upset.”
In another instance, the decomposed corpse of a Black man arrived at the morgue and possible family members had trouble identifying him. The investigator claims a morgue worker suggested she “show them a picture of his penis. Maybe they’ll recognize him by that.”
The fascination with penises didn’t stop there. The complaint states employees hung pictures of naked men in the office and used photos of penises as computer screensavers. The space was also littered with penis-shaped confetti and items with penises drawn on them. The investigator planned to stay quiet to prevent potential harassment, but then a cake arrived on May 26, a day after George Floyd died.
The medium-sized sheet cake reportedly featured a Black penis drawn in icing and was decorated by another employee. It stayed in the office for at least four days and was eventually accompanied by a balloon with a penis drawn on it, the complaints says. When the accuser complained, the documents state, the supervisor did nothing about it. Other people also complained about the cake but it remained on the counter, covered by a brown paper towel. The cake was the final straw.
“I was like, ‘this is never gonna change,’ so I filed a complaint with the EEOC and with HR,” the complainant told the Detroit Free Press. “I felt that it was so egregious, so out of line and so brazenly conducted on a daily basis — and nobody cared.”
This is the third time a staff member has filed an EEOC complaint about the office. Other workers filed in 2013 and 2016, per WXYZ. The latest complainant alleges others who have complained about the environment were fired or bullied into resignation.
“I have witnessed co-workers crying at their desks, crying in the parking lot, and crying in the bathroom of the building,” the complaint states.
The investigation is ongoing.