Oregon: County Awards $100,000 To Probation Officer Offended By ‘Thin Blue Line’ Flag
Multnomah county (home of Portland, because DUH) has agreed to pay a probation officer employee a $100,000 settlement because she was offended by a thin blue line/blue lives matter flag that another officer had hung on the wall in the office. The original lawsuit was for $420,000.
Multnomah County will pay a $100,000 settlement agreement to a former employee who sued the county for racial discrimination and retaliation in January.
The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved the settlement at its Thursday morning meeting. The lawsuit was filed by Karimah Guion-Pledgure, who worked for the county since 2011 as a corrections technician with the Department of Community Justice (DJC), as the Oregonian reported.
In her lawsuit, Guion-Pledgure alleged that county employees had retaliated against her after she complained about a coworker’s “Blue Lives Matter” flag in 2017. Guion-Pledgure, a Black woman, found the flag offensive. From her complaint:
“The Black Lives Matter movement was started to call attention to the disproportionate policing and killing of Black people by law enforcement. The “Blue Lives Matter” sign co-opts that racial justice movement’s slogan, repurposes it to shift focus to law enforcement — a chosen profession, not a racial identity — and thus denigrates, dilutes, and demeans the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
The flag remained up six months after Guion-Pledgure initially complained about it, so she erected her own “equity wall,” which displayed photos of people of color who had been killed by police officers. She was asked by managers to take the photos down, but refused to do so because the “Blue Lives Matter” flag remained in place.
Karimah Guion-Pledgure says in her lawsuit that she is black and that the flag “demeans” and “denigrates” the Black Lives Matter Movement. A probation officer hung up the flag in September 2017, she and other black co-workers complained, but supervisors wouldn’t require that it be removed, the lawsuit says.
Proponents of the Blue Lives Matter flag say it’s meant to support and honor the work and sacrifices of law enforcement officers.
Guion-Pledgure’s lawsuit says the Blue Lives Matter movement “co-opts” the Black Lives Matter movement and “repurposes it to shift focus to law enforcement — a chosen profession, not a racial identity — and thus denigrates, dilutes, and demeans the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
About a month before the probation officer put up the Blue Lives Matter flag, white supremacist demonstrators displayed that same flag alongside Confederate flags during a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the lawsuit notes. One person died and dozens of others were injured when a man deliberately rammed his car into the crowd of counter-protesters. Members of Blue Lives Matter condemned the use of their flag at the rally.
Days later, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese ordered a Thin Blue Line flag removed from a break room used by deputies at the Multnomah County Courthouse.
Guion-Pledgure was hired by the county in 2011 and worked for the Department of Community Justice as a corrections technician, according to her suit. Her lawyers say she still works for the county today, but she felt unsafe at work because of hostility after she complained about the Blue Lives Matter flag and the county’s reluctance to help her develop a “safety plan.”
“She’s disappointed that she has to leave there and that they couldn’t make it a safe and welcoming work environment,” said Guion-Pledgure’s attorney, Ashlee Albies. “They say they’re working on that, and we hope they really are.”
Albies said she believes the commissioners and many others who work for the county want it be a “safe and welcome” workplace. Albies added that her client will use her time away from the county to focus on her health.
“She was out of work quite a lot,” Albies said. “It was incredibly stressful for her. I think it’s important that she take care of herself.”
In response to a question Friday from The Oregonian/OregonLive, the county spokeswoman said that Blue Lives Matter flags or photo displays, such as the collage of minorities killed by police, aren’t allowed under a new policy at the Department of Community Justice, which is where Guion-Pledgure’s lawsuit originated.
“We are currently working on a countywide policy addressing this issue,” Morkert-Shibley said.
Displays of personal family photos are currently allowed, at least pending the development of that countywide policy, Morkert-Shibley said.
This is not dissimilar to a story from 2016 where a teacher in nearby Gresham-Barlow school district was awarded $60,000 because s/he had been misgendered by other teachers.
This comes at a time when Portland is dealing with mass retirements from its police bureau, nearby agencies are terminating their partnership agreements with Portland, and city leaders are left scratching their heads and asking ‘why?’