Philly DA’s Office, City Sued Over Sexist and Racist Memes Found in Emails

The lawsuit claims an assistant district attorney found emails sent by colleagues that contained racist and sexist memes.  She says she was demoted in retaliation after complaining about it.

According to the complaint, now-jailed District Attorney R. Seth Williams told her at the time that he was a “recovering sexist” himself and that the employees who sent the emails could be rehabilitated.

Laurie Malone was hired by the city as an assistant district attorney in 1995, in 2011 she was promoted to deputy in the pre-trial division, and according to the complaint, was excellent at her job.

Unfortunately in the summer of 2015 Malone, along with others who worked in the office, “became aware that certain … high-level employees, all of whom where male and all of whom were Caucasian, had sent and received, from work email addresses racist, sexist and sexually inappropriate communication,” the complaint states.

The emails apparently contained a serious of offensive and graphic memes, including a mock-motivational poster that featured a woman’s exposed breasts with the caption, “BOOBS, What more motivations do you need. Additional images included a picture of a black man with a bucket of fried chicken captioned, “GENERALIZATIONS, Just because they’re so damn funny when you see them,” as well as a picture of a woman staring at another woman’s chest captioned, “EPIC BOOBS, Can turn heterosexual females into lesbians in 0.39 seconds.”

Malone says she immediately went to her supervisor, the District Attorney at the time, Seth Williams. She told him that the mere sending of the emails created a hostile work environment on the basis of sexual and racial discrimination, and that failure to take action would negatively affect the morale of female employees. According to the complaint, she says Williams was dismissive.

“Shortly hereafter, Williams held a meeting … to vote on how the situation should be resolved regarding the male, white high-level members of the staff sending racist and sexist emails,” the complaint states.

She says she was the only female and racial minority to vote in favor of terminating the offenders.

Afterwards, Malone says she was passed over for promotions, and more heavily scrutinized. Williams eventually demoted her to working private criminal complaints, citing a “lack of loyalty.” She believes this was in retaliation for her original complaint, and that she was constructively discharged for it as well.

She now sues the city on four counts of discrimination and retaliation, with Caren N. Gurmankin of Console Mattiacci as counsel.

Neither Gurmankin nor the district attorney’s office returned voicemails requesting comment.

Williams, Philly’s first Black district attorney, is currently awaiting assignment on a 10 year federal prison sentence resulting from his guilty plea to a bribery charge.