Multnomah County will pay a $100,000 settlement agreement to a former employee who sued the county for racial discrimination and retaliation in January.
The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved the settlement at its Thursday morning meeting. The lawsuit was filed by Karimah Guion-Pledgure, who worked for the county since 2011 as a corrections technician with the Department of Community Justice (DJC), as the Oregonian reported.
In her lawsuit, Guion-Pledgure alleged that county employees had retaliated against her after she complained about a coworker's “Blue Lives Matter” flag in 2017. Guion-Pledgure, a Black woman, found the flag offensive. From her complaint:
“The Black Lives Matter movement was started to call attention to the disproportionate policing and killing of Black people by law enforcement. The “Blue Lives Matter” sign co-opts that racial justice movement’s slogan, repurposes it to shift focus to law enforcement — a chosen profession, not a racial identity — and thus denigrates, dilutes, and demeans the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
The flag remained up six months after Guion-Pledgure initially complained about it, so she erected her own “equity wall,” which displayed photos of people of color who had been killed by police officers. She was asked by managers to take the photos down, but refused to do so because the “Blue Lives Matter” flag remained in place.
The next week, management established a new rule that all personal photos needed to be 5-by-7 inches or smaller. The policy was only applied to Guion-Pledgure’s department.
“By that time, several other coworkers began hanging additional ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flags around the office,” the lawsuit reads. “Guion-Pledgure’s coworkers with ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flags simply resized their flags and kept them up.”
The same day the policy was put in place, Guion-Pledgure found two post-it notes on the equity wall. One said, “Thanks a lot,” while the other read simply, “Bitch.”
After those incidents, the lawsuit alleges, the county “continued to expose Guion-Pledgure to a racially offensive and combative work environment.”
Guion-Pledgure was represented by attorney J. Ashlee Albies of the Albies & Stark law firm. Albies told the Mercury that the settlement was a sign that the "DCJ needs to get itself in order" in regards to workplace discrimination.
"Both [Guion-Pledgure] and I hope this is the beginning of ... addressing these issues that have been plaguing the county for years now," Albies added.
County policy requires the board of commissioners’ approval for all legal settlements higher than $25,000. According to the terms of the settlement, Guion-Pledgure will drop her lawsuit and receive $100,000, and will no longer be employed by the county. She will, however, be allowed to re-apply for new open positions at the county in the future.
Multnomah County commissioners did not comment on the lawsuit before voting to approve the settlement.