Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss White Former Employee’s Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Against Seattle

Matthew Vadum
By Matthew Vadum
September 5, 2023Judiciary
Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss White Former Employee’s Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Against Seattle
Former city employee Joshua Diemert, shown in a 2023 photo. (Courtesy Pacific Legal Foundation)

A federal judge threw out the city of Seattle’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit a white former city employee filed over mandatory cultural sensitivity programs he claims constitute anti-white racial indoctrination.

The backlash against cultural sensitivity training sessions in both government and corporate settings has been growing in recent years. These sessions are often based on radical, unproven academic theories, such as Marxist-derived critical race theory, that assume that the United States is inherently racist and that white Americans are by their nature racist.

Former city employee Joshua Diemert is suing Seattle for damages and in the hope of preventing the city from treating individuals differently because of their race.

Mr. Diemert said that while working for the city, his race was an “albatross around his neck.” He claims that he experienced discrimination and harassment because of the city’s focus on race and supposed “white supremacy,” and that he was consistently treated worse than his colleagues who were black, indigenous, or people of color.

Mr. Diemert said at one point a city manager asked him, “What could a straight white male possibly offer our department?” A senior employee told him it was “impossible to be racist toward white people.” He also said he attended a workshop at which he was told “white people are like the devil,” “racism is in white people’s DNA,” and “white people are cannibals.”

The city argued Mr. Diemert’s claims were so weak they should be summarily dismissed.

But Judge Jamal Whitehead of the U.S. District Court for the District of Washington disagreed.

On Aug. 28, he denied (pdf) the city’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s racially hostile work environment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Washington Law Against Discrimination, as well as his equal protection, disparate treatment, and retaliation claims, in Diemert v. City of Seattle (court file 2:22-cv-01640). Judge Whitehead was appointed by President Joe Biden earlier this year.

At the same time, the judge disallowed older claims because they were brought too late.

‘Proceeding Towards His Day in Court’

Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) attorney Laura D’Agostino, who represents the plaintiff, characterized the ruling as a victory. PLF is a national public interest law firm that challenges government abuses.

The ruling “rejected the city’s attempted classification of Mr. Diemert’s claims as mere objections to diversity training—it evaluated Mr. Diemert’s detailed allegations of racial harassment and acknowledged that he had alleged enough to continue proceeding towards his day in court.”

“We’re confident that as we get through discovery, and we proceed in the case that these other claims will also be able to survive ultimately when the case goes before a jury,” the lawyer told The Epoch Times.

Mr. Diemert’s story goes back to 2013 when Seattle’s Human Services Department hired him as a program intake representative. He received excellent work evaluations and after a year earned a prestigious award recognizing his performance. He worked for the department for eight-and-a-half years.

But things changed and as time wore on, Mr. Diemert said he suffered harassment and racial discrimination because he resisted the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI), a citywide effort that began in 2004 as city council and mayoral directives to end the city government’s purported “institutional racism,” according to a summary by his attorneys.

Led by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, the initiative compels city employees to apply a “Racial Equity Toolkit”—drawn from critical race theory—to every conceivable city function. For Mr. Diemert’s department, this meant required training sessions that promoted concepts such as “white privilege” and collective guilt that white employees must shoulder for societal inequities.

At some sessions, he was required to acknowledge his supposed complicity in racism. He claims he experienced unending pressure to join racial affinity groups that would meet separately to work on matters of “race.”

Forced to Participate

According to the PLF, the trainings’ race-related messages spilled over to the workplace, where Mr. Diemert’s managers often repeated the initiative’s principles. The city also allegedly disseminated and encouraged racist messaging in emails, lunchroom conversations, and meetings. Mr. Diemert said he often felt pressured into conforming out of fear of retaliation and of incurring the wrath of his supervisors and co-workers. When he spoke out against racist messaging at a mandated workshop, his co-workers allegedly smeared him as a white supremacist and berated him about his race.

The RSJI’s discriminatory framework pervaded and distorted every aspect of Mr. Diemert’s workplace experience and hurt his health, he alleges. In 2018, a doctor urged that he be excused from the cultural sensitivity training for several months, but the department refused. Seattle dismissed Mr. Diemert’s concerns, blaming his “white privilege” for his suffering. Knowing his skin color would prevent him from being viewed positively, eventually he quit his job.

Ms. D’Agostino previously said all Seattle city employees were forced to participate in RSJI training sessions that then factored in employee evaluations.

All the trainings take as a presumption that the entire American system is based on “white supremacy,” which refers not only to skin color but to European or Christian identity, she said.

The trainings go even further, saying that things like perfectionism, being on time, focusing on things being in writing, and demanding that certain standards are met, are all “emblematic of white supremacy.”

These trainings are not anti-bias education aimed at making sure everyone is treated equally, but instead the city “automatically puts this badge of evil upon you that you can never get out of, because you are automatically racist, both consciously or unconsciously,” she said at the time.

Tim Robinson, communications manager for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, declined to comment on Judge Whitehead’s decision.

“Since part of the complaint is moving forward, our office has no comment at this time,” he told The Epoch Times by email.

The trial is scheduled to begin on April 29, 2024, according to Ms. D’Agostino.

From The Epoch Times

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