Discrimination Complaint Trial Set for Alleged Native Racial Remarks

Discrimination Complaint Trial Set for Alleged Native Racial Remarks

ICTMN Staff
10/20/11

The former director of economic development for a metro Denver community is persevering in a lawsuit centering on her support for a Dine’ employee and other issues which she contends triggered retaliation by city officials.

A discrimination lawsuit brought against City Manager Gerald Flannery and other officials of Commerce City by Stephanie Salazar is currently scheduled to go to trial next June 18 in U.S. District Court for Colorado.

A jury trial of at least five days was discussed in a final pretrial conference in District Court October 12. The city denies the allegations and has asked for summary judgment.

Salazar contends that at a meeting in 2007 with Flannery, her second-level supervisor, he expressed surprise that she had hired a Navajo woman for a city job and that the woman, “took the initiative to apply for the position.”

He asked Salazar “if she was familiar with Navajos,” and when she indicated she was not, he “explained that when he was a deputy county manager for Coconino County, Arizona, he worked with several Navajos” and is alleged to have said that “Navajos are lazy and that keeping up ‘clean’ appearances was not a priority for Navajo people.”

She charges discrimination and retaliation based upon gender as well as for her support for the Navajo employee and for her marriage to Frank Salazar, a Hispanic person.

After Salazar exhausted federal and state administrative remedies, she filed suit, contending that before her complaint of discrimination she “had never been disciplined or received a corrective action” but was told “that she was being terminated from her employment if she did not resign” and was fired two weeks later, according to her complaint.

The city, which has filed a request for summary judgment, said Salazar wrote a number of memos and other communications throughout the controversy, and it repeatedly described the documents as “rambling.”

A human relations consultant hired by the city to investigate Salazar’s complaint concerning derogatory remarks about Navajos found that the city manager “may have made reference to Ms. Wayne’s cultural heritage, but there was no discrimination or harassment involved,” according to the city’s filing.

Another investigator hired by the city, an employment attorney, “concluded that plaintiff’s allegations were frivolous, and there was a question as to whether they were made in good faith or solely to disrupt city operations.”

After the city terminated Salazar’s employment, “despite being an at-will employee, (she) was provided with a detailed letter regarding some of the reasons for her discharge,” the request for summary judgment states. The letter explained that she had been “unprofessional, unable to work effectively as part of the City team” and had shortcomings in effective communication and judgment, as well has having been “downright confrontational.”

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