Juanita Garcia filed a lawsuit on April 13, 2012, alleging that the city discriminated against her because of her gender, age and national origin. In addition, she claims that city staff retaliated against her after she filed a complaint with the Human Resources Department.
Garcia's attorney declined to comment on the case.
Although City Attorney Jay Burnham said he did not know the details of the case, he said the city is waiting for a judge to rule on a defense motion for dismissal.
Garcia was hired as an operations technician trainee I on April 1, 2009, according to the complaint. She had almost 30 years of experience in the power plant industry when hired, and city staff recognized that she was over-qualified for her position, it states. Garcia said she was promised rapid promotion and training opportunities at the three gas-powered generating stations — Navajo, Bluffview and Animas.
Garcia was also the first female power plant operator or trainee hired by the city, according to the records.
City officials denied her claims and her right to damages, according to court documents.
After starting in her position, the city's management team allegedly created or tolerated a hostile work environment that included profane language, discriminatory job assignments,
"When Garcia requested that a lock be put on the power plant restroom so she could enjoy some privacy and not walk in on male employees ... the City balked ... and told (her) that if she needed to use the restroom (she) could leave the plant and find a restroom in another City building," the complaint said.
The city denied that Garcia was ever told to leave the plant to find a restroom, and said that there has always been at least one restroom with a working lock on the power plant premises.
Electric utility staff allegedly assigned her to cleaning restrooms, taking out trash, cleaning floors and performing housekeeping duties, "work which a co-worker told Garcia she was only fit' to do and could be considered woman's work.'"
Each morning, co-workers would greet her with a, "good morning mother f**ker," according to the complaint.
When she complained about the language, the city's Human Resources Department allegedly described the language as a rite of passage among power-plant employees.
On another occasion, Bryson Ahkeah, a supervisor, threw a banana peel on the floor and ordered her to pick it up, the compaint says. Garcia refused.
"I am your boss and I can have your ass run off," Ahkeah allegedly said in response.
"You can't trust Juanita," he allegedly said after learning that Garcia reported the incident. "She'll turn you in."
Garcia filed a complaint with the city's Human Resources Department on June 15, 2010. The department's investigation was unprofessional, biased and incomplete, according to the complaint.
"(She) has been given more training than other trainees and repeated opportunities to delay testing to become an Operations Technician; the City has gone out of its way to ensure her success," said the city's response, filed June 26, 2012.
Garcia was not promoted to an Operations Technician because she never met the testing and training requirements, according to the response.