Former ADA files lawsuit against New Orleans DA’s office
22nd April 2013 · 0 Comments
By April Siese
The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office is facing a lawsuit after allegations of racial discrimination from a former member of its staff, who says minority employees face a hostile work environment and a pattern of harassment.
Former Assistant District Attorney Josie Numa is suing the agency on charges of racial discrimination that led to a hostile work environment and retaliation. Numa, who is currently in private practice, was first hired by the District Attorney’s Office in 2007. She was terminated from her position just five years later allegedly without reason, though Numa feels that her firing may have been racially motivated.
She alleges that there were multiple instances in which she and her fellow minority attorneys were singled out during staff meetings. Her complaints cite a specific incident occurring in January of 2011 at the hands of Chief of the Child Support Enforcement Division Cherie Huffman. Such hostilities allegedly extended to her larger working environment after being reassigned to the Child Support Enforcement Division in June of 2010.
“I began working at the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office in 2007 and received the opportunity to work in the Economic Crimes Unit until 2010 when District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro reorganized the office. During reorganization, I was reassigned to the Child Support Enforcement Division,” Numa said in a statement, adding that it “had a high termination rate among minority attorneys and a high rate of forced resignation among minority attorneys due to the hostile work environment created by the Chief and other factors in the office.”
She first aired her grievances in 2011 by filing a formal complaint against Huffman, who has been listed as a defendant in Numa’s lawsuit. The grievance was ultimately dropped by Director of Human Resources Loretta Brown due to the fact that Huffman had no previous record of complaints. A subsequent investigation yielded no evidence of racial discrimination.
Numa says the discrimination and hostility then worsened and she was unable to transfer to another department. An evaluation of Numa by Huffman was reportedly scathing and unfair. Numa alleges that Huffman encouraged support staff to harass her and other minority attorneys. She states that those who allegedly overstepped their bounds with minority attorneys were subsequently punished.
Around April 23, 2011, Numa submitted her complaints to the NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. She then submitted them to the EEOC, who recently informed her of her right to sue.
“I am pleased to say that I am moving forward with the case. While I’m the only plaintiff in this case, this is not an isolated issue,” Numa said during a recent press conference.
“There are many others who underwent similar attacks at a very high level. I am moving forward based on my personal experiences and with the confidence of knowing that these discriminatory practices are coming to light to be put to an end.”
The suit also names District Attorney Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr. and First Assistant District Attorney Graymond F. Martin.
In all, the defendants are being charged with five counts of retaliation, discrimination, and a hostile work environment. Numa is seeking back pay with interest, front pay, damages, relief, and benefits, as well as the covering of her legal costs and expenses.
This article originally published in the April 22, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.