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It took a 7-year legal battle, but AFSCME member in Texas finally gets justice

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It took a 7-year legal battle, but AFSCME member in Texas finally gets justice
By Anna Dang ·

AFSCME Local 1624 member Sandra Greene has demonstrated the power of successfully fighting back in the face of injustice at work.

After seven years of multiple lengthy complaint processes that culminated in her filing a retaliation lawsuit in Travis County District Court in Austin, Texas, a jury awarded Greene $750,000 in damages when they found that other city employees at Austin Energy retaliated against her.

Greene is a Black woman who works as an IT business analyst senior at Austin Energy, which bills itself a community-owned utility, and she has been with the company for over 28 years.

In 2013, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management, which met her director’s requirements to earn a promotion. But she didn’t receive the promotion she applied for. That prompted her to file a denial of promotion complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May 2016, citing discrimination based on her race and age.

“I did everything that they told me to … going back to school at age 50 was really tough because of all the hard work that I had put into it, all that I went through, to get to where I was,” Greene told AFSCME Now in an interview. “It was just so blankly clear what they had done, I just could not let it go.”

According to Greene, she began to face retaliation after she filed the discrimination complaint. She recalls that her supervisor excluded her from meetings, refused to talk to her, and would score her low on performance reviews while declining to provide a reason. She filed additional retaliation and harassment complaints, but still saw no action to address her concerns. Even when she switched teams, the retaliatory behavior from previous co-workers continued.

“It wasn’t a one-time thing, but it was ongoing retaliation, even to this day,” Greene said.

In 2018, Greene realized that her only option to address the hostility was to sue, so she worked with a civil rights and employment attorney to make that happen. On Feb. 10 of this year, the jury found that the company failed to investigate her complaints, that her co-workers filed false complaints about her without informing her, and that her supervisor did not properly evaluate her and excluded her from meetings, according to the Austin Monitor

In a 10-2 vote, jurors awarded Greene $300,000 in back pay and benefits, $300,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish, and $150,000 in compensatory damages in the future.

This was a major win for Greene, and she thanks Local 1624 members, who all work for the city of Austin or Travis County, for supporting her throughout the whole process.

“There's no way I could have done it without them,” said Greene. “All of them have been with me through thick and thin, holding my hand through all the processes and giving emotional support. I didn’t even try to do it without them.”

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