Oregon’s Multnomah County has agreed to pay a $100,000 settlement to a Black employee who claimed her work environment became hostile and racially insensitive after she complained about a “Blue Lives Matter” flag that was pinned up in the office.
Karimah Guion-Pledgure decided to sue Multnomah County after months of alleged harassment. The lawsuit claims that the Blue Lives Matter flag “demeans” the Black Lives Matter movement.
A probation officer at the woman’s office hung one above his desk in September 2017 and supervisors would not require the man to remove the flag. Co-workers disagreed with the woman that it was derogatory. She claimed she was harassed because of her stance and faced “discrimination and retaliation” during her time working as a corrections technician for the county.
Supporters of the Blue Lives Matter flag claim it is meant to honor the sacrifices law enforcement officers make and the work they do, but Guion-Pledgure believes otherwise.
A copy of the lawsuit obtained by the Daily News said the Blue Lives Matter movement “co-opts” the Black Lives Matter movement’s slogan and repurposes it to shift focus from black lives to law enforcement, which is “a chosen profession, not a racial identity.”
The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved the settlement on Thursday, the Portland Mercury reported. As part of the settlement, Guion-Pledgure had to resign from her job with the county on Friday.
The lawsuit claimed that the poor workplace environment led the woman to suffer from stress and health problems.
Guion-Pledgure’s attorney Ashlee Albies told the Daily News her client didn’t want to file a lawsuit, but felt there was no other way to bring attention to the issue and stop the workplace harassment she was experiencing.
Albies said Guion-Pledgure is relieved her issue was resolved and hopes the county will be more welcoming to others in the future.
The lawsuit details examples of the discrimination and backlash the woman faced.In July 2018, Guion-Pledgure created her own “equity wall” in response to the Blue Lives Matter flag remaining on the wall. It was made up of visuals of people of color killed by police in the United States and visuals of immigrant children separated from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
A co-worker complained about the wall the next day and she was told to remove it but refused since the Blue Lives Matter flag has been allowed to stay up for months even though there had been many complaints, the lawsuit said.
In response, the office instituted a policy limiting the size of pictures to smaller than 5-x-7 inches. Co-workers with Blue Lives Matter flags responded by bringing in smaller versions and the day the policy was enacted, two notes were left on Guion-Pledgure’s equity wall. One read “Thanks a lot,” and the other read, “Bitch.”
She reported the incident and went on leave for a few weeks. Even after her return, she said the complaints against her and anxiety stemming from the workplace continued for months and she eventually filed a lawsuit. She originally was seeking $420,000 in the lawsuit, but settled for $100,000.
Blue Lives Matter flags and photo displays like the collage Guion-Pledgure created are no longer allowed under a new policy at the woman’s former workplace, OregonLive reported on Friday.
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