A longtime employee of the Kansas City Police Department’s technical support unit says she faced routine harassment from a superior at work because she is Black, according to a lawsuit filed against the police board Tuesday.
Dethera Morris, a 62-year-old Kansas City resident, says in the lawsuit that her white supervisor gave preferential treatment to younger, white employees with less experience and seniority. Over the past five years, Morris alleges she has been singled out by upper managers, is frequently mocked and ridiculed behind her back and is generally treated with disrespect because of her race and age.
The lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court. It alleges the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners is responsible for continued harassment she faced on the job beginning at least around 2017.
The police department has not responded to a request for comment.
Morris, a 14-year civilian employee with a telecommunications management degree, contends that her direct supervisor was largely responsible for mistreatment and a hostile work environment. Morris alleges she was frequently bullied by her direct boss in front of others and felt intimidated.
Morris works as a shift supervisor and is the only Black employee in the unit. In recent years she says managerial duties have been stripped away from her by her boss and she is instead tasked with undesirable and menial work.
Meaningful work assignments are instead offered to white employees with less experience and seniority, the complaint alleges. Morris is also made to work night shifts instead of a more desirable day shift, according to the complaint.
She contends she was also given the last chance to pick vacation days and was made to work on Martin Luther King Jr. Day even though she had requested the time off. Morris says she was never required to work that holiday until her new manager took over.
The manager, she alleges, also convinced other employees to reserve vacation days that Morris wanted, and those employees “never wanted the days off to begin with.”
Morris contends she was singled out in several other ways. Some allegations include being left out of other employee activities and meetings, being denied access to learning opportunities and use of computer programs, and being told that she was ineligible for overtime when others were, the civil complaint alleges.
She also had to work in the “cold, dusty and dirty” computer server room and was given a broken chair to use, the complaint alleges.
In a letter to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, Morris wrote that a coworker told her that other employees, including her direct supervisor, mocked her “daily” and that they did not respect her because she is Black and overweight.
Morris also described a terse exchange during which her supervisor allegedly berated her and called her “Toad Face.”
The state agency issued a right-to-sue letter in January.
At least three complaints were made with the Human Resources Department and actions necessary to prevent further harassment were not taken, the lawsuit says.
Internal Affairs contacted Morris’ direct supervisor after she filed a complaint and the “discrimination and harassment seemed to get worse,” the lawsuit alleges.
Other superiors were aware of “attacks” against Morris and did nothing to intervene, the complaint alleges.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial. It contends Morris is entitled to damages in excess of $25,000.