Black Architect of the Capitol employee called N-word, found a noose during an assignment, lawsuit alleges

Anthony Green alleges the agency failed in addressing discrimination he faced

Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton said he has a zero tolerance policy on discrimination and harassment.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton said he has a zero tolerance policy on discrimination and harassment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 19, 2020 at 5:16pm

Anthony Green, a black maintenance mechanic working at the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), found a noose hanging from equipment he was assigned to inspect and was called the N-word by white colleagues, Green alleges in a lawsuit he filed against the agency in November.

Green alleges that since he was hired in 2015 to work in the AOC’s Capitol Power Plant Jurisdiction, he was treated differently based on his race, and called “lazy” in addition to the racial slur. When Green complained about the hostile conduct, the AOC failed to take swift action and retaliated against him, according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Victor Shaw, Green’s supervisor, along with three other mechanics — Quinton Coleman, Dana Spencer and David Barletta — referred to Green as the N-word when speaking to other AOC employees, the lawsuit alleges. Shaw, Spencer and Barletta are white. Coleman is black.

The lawsuit accuses Shaw, Coleman, Spencer and Barletta of saying Green and another black mechanic were lazy, worked slower than the other mechanics and produced lesser-quality work.

Green's lawsuit describes an incident in 2017 where he says Barletta intentionally closed a freight elevator door on his head. The injury caused him to miss a week of work, and even though a supervisor witnessed the incident, the suit alleges, no action was taken against Barletta and the event was not recorded as a workplace injury.

The noose incident

On May 10, 2019, Green was assigned to inspect the ladders in the power plant and found a noose hanging from one of the ladders. Green showed the noose to Randy Charity, a black supervisor, who took a photo of it on his phone. The lawsuit alleges Spencer was aware that Green was assigned to do the inspection, and hung the noose himself.

Spencer was still actively working at the AOC until the end of August 2019, when he was put on administrative leave.

There were complaints brought to supervisors at the AOC regarding Spencer's alleged behavior; one was raised by Green on June 6, 2019 and one by another mechanic was raised on May 21, 2019. The two complaints did not result in an immediate investigation, but Green and other mechanics were interviewed by the AOC’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Dispute Resolution on July 12, 2019, the lawsuit alleges.

Laura Condeluci, a spokesperson for the AOC, did not respond to questions about the status of Spencer’s employment, who hung the noose, whether there was an investigation into the hanging of the noose and what the agency has done to address Green’s claims.

“The agency does not comment publicly on pending litigation or personnel matters,” Condeluci said in an email. “We take claims of harassment, discrimination and hostile work environment very seriously and are committed to ensuring a work environment that values diversity, promotes respect for individual differences, and is free from unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation for all employees.”

J. Brett Blanton was sworn in as the 12th Architect of the Capitol in January. At his nomination hearing before the Senate Rules Committee in December, Blanton said he was committed to mitigating discrimination within the agency.

“I will have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, discrimination or unethical behavior,” Blanton said. “We cannot expect to attract the nation’s top workforce without adapting and changing our culture.”

The past year has been a tumultuous one for the agency, including a stinging AOC inspector general report and discrimination cases.

“Unfortunately, these are the discriminatory attitudes and behaviors that the architect has permitted for far too long,” said Green’s lawyer, Les Alderman of Alderman, Devorsetz and Hora PLLC. “This has happened under several different architects and we don’t see any steps that the new architect has taken to put an end to it.”