Suit alleges water board bias

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2003

It appears the Selma Water Works and Sewer Board is in hot water again.

A lawsuit filed Friday against members of the water board and others alleges that black employees are usually given the lowest-paying jobs with the least chance for promotion. It also alleges that white employees are promoted quicker than blacks even though they are less qualified.

Chestnut represents five current or former employees of the water board, who are complaining about discriminatory practices. &uot;Basically, they’ve been saying there had been a failure to post positions,&uot; Chestnut said. &uot;A failure to cross train.&uot;

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Billy Hicks, chairman of the water board, said he couldn’t comment on the case since he didn’t know about it. &uot;I haven’t received any papers,&uot; Hicks said. &uot;We have not been served at this time.&uot;

According to the suit, white employees are more likely to receive cross training or enter departments that would help career advancement.

The suit also states that the water board hired a white male around September 2001 and didn’t post the position. &uot;The job was posted only after plaintiffs complained,&uot; the suit states. &uot;Consequently, plaintiffs were told that the job was no longer available and that no one had been hired.&uot;

Another complaint is disproportionate job assignments. According to Chestnut, all water meter readers are black. &uot;And that’s one of the least desired positions at the Selma water works,&uot; he added.

On the other hand, only one black employee is stationed at the water board’s treatment plant on Selma Avenue, according to information attached to Chestnut’s suit. &uot;And that’s one of the most desired departments at the Selma water works,&uot; he said.

Chestnut said the suit seeks punitive damages and an injunction to ensure the alleged discrimination never happens again. No specific dollar amount is requested. Instead, Chestnut said punitive damages should be determined by a jury.

The suit could take years to resolve, but Chestnut said the discovery process would begin in the next two months. Written questions will be sent to those involved in the suit.

People involved are considered under oath when they answer the questionnaire, Chestnut noted.