Tucson Unified, Justice Dept. agree to settle bias suit by 5 custodians

2011-08-02T00:00:00Z 2011-08-02T06:30:22Z Tucson Unified, Justice Dept. agree to settle bias suit by 5 custodiansKellie Mejdrich Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 02, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Five custodians from Rincon/University High School could be awarded a total of $45,000 in a proposed settlement of a discrimination lawsuit against Tucson Unified School District.

The settlement, if approved by a federal judge, would also require TUSD to make changes to its anti-discrimination policies due to allegations that a white, male custodian physically intimidated female and Hispanic co-workers and made derogatory comments to them, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement issued Monday

Court documents show complaints from multiple employees were lodged for two years before the district fired the man.

In its suit, the Justice Department alleged TUSD violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because the district failed to provide relief to affected employees.

Two female custodians alleged the man trapped them in a restroom - physically menacing them and refusing to let them leave, the Justice Department said in its initial complaint.

The plaintiffs alleged TUSD "took no meaningful steps" to discipline the man, and that written warnings only intensified the actions of discrimination - to the point that two female custodians requested escorts when taking trash outside after dark, court documents show.

"This lawsuit should send a clear message that the department will take necessary action to eliminate and remedy the effects of unlawful harassment in our public sector workplaces," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general of the civil rights division. The Department of Justice said Monday that TUSD has agreed to the terms of settlement.

The Star is not naming the accused man because there was no determination that he did what the women allege. The lawsuit was brought against the district for how it handled the matter.

Contact reporter Kellie Mejdrich at mejdrich@azstarnet.com or 573-4142.

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