White man sues after city promotes black woman

Posted at 1:54 PM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 14:14:14-04

CINCINNATI – A City of Cincinnati employee alleges racial and gender discrimination in a federal lawsuit filed in February.

Timothy Kellard identifies himself as a white male in his complaint against the city. He has worked for the city’s Department of Public Services since 1992 and has been promoted several times, most recently to service area coordinator.

Kellard claims he was discriminated against after a 2014 independent “climate assessment” report which found “an unwillingness or incapacity to directly address the issues of race, classification, gender, educational status, favoritism and bias with regards to managing and developing a culturally diverse workforce” in the DPS.

The report was commissioned in response to a growing number of complaints from DPS employees who “expressed concern about...the lack of African-American women in management” and other issues, according to the complaint.

“The findings show that the issues of lack of communication, ineffective leadership and exclusiveness have existed within Public Services, with periodic efforts to resolve the issues, for decades,” the report states.

The report preceded the departure of the DPS’ then-director and other managers.

When a position for a public services operations supervisor opened up in 2014, Kellard was among the 53 who applied. His complaint claims he was discriminated against because of his race and gender when city officials “changed the written class specifications for the...position to accommodate the individual they desired to promote.”

The wording for some of the job’s requirements changed from needing three years of management experience to needing three years of experience “investigating employee issues and concerns,” according to the complaint.

Kellard was not selected and officials promoted “an objectively unqualified African-American female for whom the promotion represented an increase of several steps on the promotional ladder,” he said in his complaint.

A June 2015 memo from City Manager Harry Black to the mayor and council members notes that the DPS started a program to increase diversity in management as one of several initiatives to fix the problems identified in the climate assessment. Out of nine staff members promoted in DPS in the year leading to the city manager’s memo, 66 percent were black and 66 percent were female.

Across city departments in 2015, white men accounted for 47 percent of promoted employees, according to an equal employment opportunity report released earlier this year.

Kellard claimed the city violated Cincinnati Civil Service Commission rules, as well as state and federal laws by promoting the black woman instead of him.

In a response filed this month, city attorneys denied most of Kellard’s claims and called for his complaint to be dismissed.

Attorneys for Kellard and the city weren't immediately available to comment.

The city was “motivated by legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons” and “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct any harassing, discriminatory or retaliatory behavior,” city attorneys wrote in response to the complaint.

Kellard “failed to exhaust his administrative remedies” and “unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective behavior or avoid harm otherwise,” the city’s reply states.

DPS employees filed nine equal employment opportunity complaints with the city during 2015; black women filed seven and black men filed two. DPS employees also made four external complaints during 2015; black men filed two and white men, including Kellard, filed two.

The lawsuit apparently hasn’t dissuaded city leaders from continuing efforts to increase diversity in management. According to the equal employment opportunity report, city human resources officials will recommend a revision to ordinances to seek more initiatives for women in leadership and work to reduce the number of EEO complaints through education and focused approach on violations.