Black Women Allege Discrimination by Seattle Parks

Paul Steinbach Headshot

Seven Black women who have worked for the Seattle Parks Department are suing the city, alleging racial discrimination and disparate treatment based on race and gender.

As reported by The Seattle Times, most of the plaintiffs allege they were denied promotions, most allege they were retaliated against for various reasons and several say they were wrongly disciplined. All are over 40 years old.

The the lawsuit was filed last August, three of the women still work for the Parks Department, while three say they felt compelled to resign, and one alleges she was wrongly terminated.

Th suit seeks unspecified damages, arguing the women made less money over the years than they would have with promotions and other opportunities. It alleges that department supervisors and directors have been “responsible for perpetuating a hostile work environment toward African American women.”

“What they can all show is that they were treated differently,” said Oscar Desper III, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Last October, the Seattle city attorney’s office filed a court response denying the core allegations, and the case is scheduled for trial in 2022. Beyond that, the Parks Department declined to comment. The department doesn’t comment on an active lawsuits, a spokesperson said.

Times reporter Daniel Beekman provides multiple stories of the women's alleged mistreatment, led by the case of Grace Brown, who worked for the department cleaning park bathrooms and maintaining grounds for nearly 30 years without advancement, despite interviewing for promotions several times. For 14 of those years, Brown, now 59, was a seasonal employee working without benefits.

Brown said she trained new employees on multiple occasions and repeatedly interviewed for better positions. But her career came and went without a promotion (other than when she secured permanent status), even as employees who weren’t Black moved up.

“There were plenty of people who came into this profession and now they’re crew chief and supervisors,” Brown told the Times.

AB Show 2023 in Baltimore
AB Show is a solution-focused event for athletics, fitness, recreation and military professionals.
Nov 1-4, 2023
Learn More
AB Show 2023
Buyer's Guide
Information on more than 3,000 companies, sorted by category. Listings are updated daily.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide