Fort Worth

Woman says coworker harassed, assaulted her in ‘hostile’ Fort Worth water department

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Just like many movements for equal rights in America, the path for women to seek recourse from sexual harassment has been through the courts. But grassroots activism in the 1970s opened the space for a nationwide conversation, and the Civil Rights
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Just like many movements for equal rights in America, the path for women to seek recourse from sexual harassment has been through the courts. But grassroots activism in the 1970s opened the space for a nationwide conversation, and the Civil Rights

A black, gay woman who works for the city of Fort Worth says she was sexually assaulted and sexually harassed by a coworker and that her complaints of discrimination were ignored by supervisors.

Kamika Anderson, a four-year employee of the water department, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court against the department and a former coworker, Jesse Puga. It is the second discrimination lawsuit filed against the department in the past four months.

The city of Fort Worth declined to comment. Puga did not respond to requests to comment.

When she started as an equipment operator in 2015, Anderson was the only black woman in the department, she said. Puga began harassing and assaulting her and then became her supervisor in 2016, according to the lawsuit. At one point, Puga grabbed her breast, according to the lawsuit.

Anderson said she complained to her crew leader but he never acted on it or informed upper management. After Puga learned of the complaint, Anderson said, he retaliated by writing her up twice.

“When I tried to bring it to their attention, they swept it under the rug,” Anderson said. “What normally would have happened is they would have separated us, but they kept putting us together. It was hostile.”

Once upper management learned of Anderson’s complaints, they tore up the two reprimands and transferred her to another department, where, the lawsuit alleges, a supervisor used a slur when referring to a person’s sexual orientation. Anderson reported the incident to the supervisor’s boss, but nothing was done, according to the lawsuit.

“The term was meant to be derogatory and was in retaliation for Kamika’s reporting Puga’s sexual harassment and sexual assault,” the lawsuit said.

Puga was eventually fired. He appealed his termination in April but the appeal was dismissed.

Anderson filed a discrimination charge against the water department, but it was never resolved, according to the lawsuit. She still works with storm water management for the city.

“A woman should be able to work in the water department and be treated fairly and not be subject to sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual language to degrade her,” said Anderson’s lawyer, Renea Overstreet.

Former water director Kenneth Morgan is seeking $1 million in a lawsuit that is scheduled for trial in December. Morgan, who is black, faced insurrection from subordinates and retaliation for complaining about apparent discrimination during his tenure from December 2017 to March 2018, according to the lawsuit filed Nov. 7.

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