FLINT (WWJ) — A woman has paired up with a Detroit attorney to go after the Michigan Department of Corrections over allegations of racism.
Lisa Griffey — the plaintiff — says she was called names, often found herself at the center of many office jokes and was even shown a video of how African-Americans can avoid being arrested while she worked at two different MDOC offices.
Griffey, a state probation officer for the past 16 years, claims in a lawsuit filed at the Genesee County Circuit Court on Monday that racism is a part of the culture at two Michigan offices, and that even supervisors take part.
“At one time I was referred to as ‘the black one’ and that should’ve been accepted, but of course it wasn’t accepted by me,” Griffey said. “I’m off on stress leave because this has just — it’s been a lot.”
Griffey said she made eight formal complains before being transferred from the Lapeer office to the Flint office, where the comments allegedly continued. Her attorney, Jonathan Marko, says has handled a case like this in the past and that he’s handled around 10 lawsuits with the MDOC.
“Honestly, I wish I could say there was a certain dollar amount that would get the Michigan Department of Corrections to clean up their act,” Marko said. “Based on what I’ve seen, I mean, there’s been millions awarded against them and it hasn’t made a difference.”
Marko said Griffey was referred to as a “mammy,” a word used to refer to African-American women as nursemaids for a white family, and used to describe African-American women as “overweight, unattractive, illiterate and masculine.”
Other parts of the lawsuit allege that while an officer ordered lunch, the supervisor suggested that Griffey get chitterlings on her pizza.
The MDOC tells WWJ Newsradio 950 that it does not comment on pending legal matters.
“In the system that they have set up to address these complaints, the discriminatory harassment system is a complete and utter joke.” Marko said. “I’ve had people testify under oath about that, that it’s a farce, it’s a way to white-wash complaints.”