PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A veteran prosecutor claims in a federal complaint that she lost her job at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office after protesting raunchy interoffice emails.
The firm Console Mattiacci represents attorney Laurie Malone in the lawsuit filed on Nov. 30 in Philadelphia. Her case comes just over a month after a federal judge sentenced Malone’s longtime boss, former Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, to five years in prison for taking a bribe.
Malone’s claims are unrelated to this corruption case, saying she became aware in August 2015 of a number of “racist, sexist and sexually inappropriate communications” that her colleagues at the DA’s office were sending from their work email addresses.
All of the individuals involved in these communications were white, male, high-level employees, according to the complaint.
Malone describes seven graphic emails in her complaint. Most are generally misogynistic, describing women as household appliances or sex objects, and one referenced the stereotype about the popularity of fried chicken among blacks.
After Malone complained about the emails, she says Williams held a meeting with senior staffers to decide on a course of action.
At this point, Williams had been in office as Philadelphia’s fist black DA for six years. Malone, who is Asian, notes that only she and another staffer voted in favor of terminating one of the staffers involved in the emails.
Williams chose a more lenient approach, according to the complaint, which says none of the implicated staffers were fired or even demoted.
“Williams also said that he was a ‘recovering sexist,’ that he was ‘evolving,’ and that the employees who sent the emails could be ‘rehabilitated,’” the complaint states.
With 20 years under her belt at the DA’s office, Malone says her opposition to Williams’ tolerance of sexist and racist conduct made her a target for retaliation.
In addition to passing Malone over for a newly created position called chief integrity officer that November, the office began offering new scrutiny on her conduct at meetings and her communications with staff, according to the complaint.
One of the white, male, high-level employees involved in the inappropriate emails even began interrogating Malone’s colleagues, she says, about whether they had ever seen her drunk.
Malone notes that she had been promoted in 2011 to deputy of the pretrial division but that she was demoted in February 2016 without being provided “with a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason.”
“Williams told plaintiff that the reason for the same was her ‘lack of loyalty’ to him,” the complaint states.
Malone says the city’s failure to reinstate her led to her constructive discharge in March 2017.
The Philadelphia attorney seeks damages alleging retaliation, sex discrimination and race discrimination, in violation of federal civil rights law and Title VII, as well as state and city code.
She is represented by Console Mattiacci attorney Caren Gurmankin.
Neither that firm nor the district attorney’s office has returned voicemails requesting comment.