© 2023 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Against Panama City Beach Among Several Workplace Complaints Filed Since 2018

A large green and white building.
The City of Panama City Beach
Five current and former Panama City Beach public works employees have filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the city in an effort to put an end to what they describe as unfair treatment.

A class-action racial discrimination lawsuit is among five workplace-related complaints filed against Panama City Beach since 2018.

A hearing to set a trial date will take place on Monday, nearly a year after the lawsuit was originally filed.

Five African American city public works employees filed the lawsuit in September. They say they began receiving unfair treatment at work in April 2019 after the department’s leadership changed. Four of the plaintiffs still work for the city.

The 37-page complaint contains numerous instances of racial discrimination, said Tallahassee-based attorney Marie Mattox, who's representing the plaintiffs. “From the failure to promote, the increased workloads, the condescending and disparaging remarks that are made to them all the time, the bathrooms, not being able to use the public works’ bathrooms, making their work more difficult.”

The lawsuit is among three complaints currently open against the city. Former City Manager Tony O'Rourke filed one of those lawsuits after the City Council fired him. A female police officer is claiming sex-based discrimination in another ongoing lawsuit.

Two other lawsuits filed in the last few years have already been settled. Those were both brought by former city clerks.

City officials have declined to be interviewed about the pending litigation, but issued the following statement: "Anyone can file a lawsuit against anyone at any time. That is difficult to control. We are, however, as a city committed to treating all 361 city employees fairly and equitably. The city does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, or other genetic information."

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.