An African American project manager at a Pleasanton construction company filed a racial-discrimination and harassment lawsuit Thursday against her former bosses, alleging they gave her photos of themselves dressed in President Trump-related costumes and posing with Confederate flags.
Tishay Wright filed the suit in Alameda County Superior Court, charging that the offensive behavior of the owners of Southland Construction was part of a pattern of harassment against women and minorities.
“I kept being told by my family to not be afraid to speak up,” Wright said of the decision to bring the lawsuit. “I come from Berkeley, Calif. — I’ve never encountered anything like this.”
Wright was hired at the company in June 2015; she alleged that the two years she worked there were punctuated by incidents that created a hostile work environment. In one, she said, her employers gave her photos of themselves posing at her desk with Confederate flags emblazoned with the words “the Southland shall rise again.”
She said she Googled the Confederate flag in disbelief, just to make sure that really was what the images showed.
“I couldn’t believe what I had received from my bosses,” Wright said tearfully. “It takes me back to slavery days. I am not a slave.”
Wright alleged that Southland co-owners Anita and Kenneth Hayden became hostile to her after she complained about Kenneth Hayden allegedly telling her and another female employee, “Y’all are my bitches and you’re going to take notes for the smaller projects coming up.”
Then, at a “white elephant” gift exchange at a company Christmas party, the lawsuit alleges, Kenneth Hayden did not allow Wright to pick her present, instead giving her a separate, wrapped gift.
When she got back to her car, Wright claims, she discovered the bag contained a Confederate flag purse with photos of her bosses dressed as President Trump and a Trump supporter posing with Confederate flags.
Wright also alleges her employers would make racially insensitive comments like, “We’ll just let the Mexicans do it,” and joked that Mexican workers could be paid in beer.
She is seeking undisclosed punitive and compensatory damages.
Southland Construction did not immediately respond for a request for comment on the allegations.
Wright’s lawyer, Christopher Dolan, said the case has symbolic importance and “shows what’s going wrong with this country.”
“I’ve dealt with discrimination cases, race-based cases,” Dolan said. “I’ve never dealt with something so offensive, so proud to inflict an injurious message on another person.”