Black, Hispanic Sanitation Employees Take Aim at Department’s “Plantation” Culture

February 13, 2013 | Andy Cush

A group of black and hispanic supervisors has filed a class-action lawsuit against the city’s Department of Sanitation, alleging a culture that denies promotions to people of color. The suit cites some striking statistics: though 55 percent of Sanitation employees are black or hispanic, just three to five percent of managers are of color.”We still have a plantation mentality at the Department of Sanitation,” said Andrenia Burgis, one of the plaintiffs. “They’re in the front and we stand in back.”

“There’s an astounding culture of racism in the sanitation department,” agreed attorney Arthur Schwartz. “It would have been astounding by 1960s culture.”

According to the plaintiffs, promotions aren’t given on merit, but based on “who you know and what color your skin is.”

The lawsuit asks that the Sanitation Department halts promotions until a new system is put in place, complete with a court-appointed monitor, and the plaintiffs are also seeking $1 million each in damages.