Inside City Hall: Ex-employee accuses Atlanta IT department of discrimination

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Atlanta City Hall, as seen in 2021. (Tyson Horne/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

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Atlanta City Hall, as seen in 2021. (Tyson Horne/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

A former city of Atlanta employee in the Department of Information Management has filed a discrimination charge against the city for an alleged “ongoing effort to eliminate middle-aged black employees.”

According to the complaint submitted to the the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Sept. 14, the 53-year-old Black woman was hired as the Director of Information Technology for the department in 2019. The AJC isn’t naming the woman because her complaint is not yet a public document.

Starting in 2022, she describes an environment where younger, white employees were given raises and promotions over Black colleagues without justification.

When one white employee was given a surprising raise, the complaint says, she noted to the city’s chief technology officer that “the Desktop Support Team, which consisted of 99% black employees, had endured the loss of five staffers without any additional compensation for their increased workload.”

In another case, she describes a formal complaint filed in 2023 by three different department teams with the city’s human resource department over the issues — including once instance where white employees were allowed to work remotely while a Black director had been required to relocate to Georgia.

The former employee also describes being pressured into taking a demotion and asked to build “a paper trail” to justify firing of an older Black employee. In February 2023, she filed a formal complaint with human resources in which she also raised concerns about the department’s “failure to award vending contracts to minority IT contractors.”

According to the complaint, the employee was fired on Aug. 14 after a short vacation.

“I believe my firing was based on the various complaints I had raised about discriminatory contracting and vending decisions and my opposition to firing (another Black employee),” the employee wrote. “This constitutes retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

She is also charging the city with age discrimination after documenting a handful of employees over 40 years old who, she said, were unjustly fired.

The city did not respond to request for comment.


Does City Council have the authority to put a referendum on the ballot? The question was the center of debate last week after council members voiced intent to do just that.

Sources inside City Hall said that Council Member Liliana Bakhtiari mulled introducing legislation that posed the following question to voters: Should the city discontinue work on the public safety training center project in the South River Forest and relocate the facility to another location within city limits?

The effort was ultimately thwarted by city lawyers who advised council members that they did not have the authority to put a referendum on the ballot.

“It is our opinion that the constitution of the state of Georgia prohibits municipalities and local governments from placing straw or opinion poll questions on ballots,” they said in a legal memo obtained by the Saporta Report.

But some outside lawyers disagree.

David Dreyer, an attorney and former state representative, sent his own analysis to council members that if the language in the proposal was tweaked, the council could put a binding referendum on the ballot.

Dreyer’s analysis says that the language of the ballot question Bakhtiari was considering was more like a “straw poll” and that the original lease agreement passed by council in 2021 has a termination clause which could be utilized through a referendum.

“The Atlanta City Council, through a majority vote and the Mayor’s approval, has the power and authority to place a binding referendum on the ballot,” Dreyer concluded. “Adequate notice must be given, and the referendum must be binding, instead of a straw/opinion poll.”


Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Following the city’s release of its “inclusive” language guide, City Council last week passed legislation to replace gendered pronouns — “his” and “her” — with gender-neutral pronouns — “them” and “their” — and gendered terms such as “chairman” with “chairperson” within council communications.

“It is important to create a more inclusive and respectful environment, including in our Atlanta City Council governing documents,” the proposal reads, “to send the clear message that the Atlanta City Council serves everyone, and anyone can be a part of it.”

The legislation was introduced by Council member Liliana Bakhtiari, the first queer Muslim person to be elected in the state of Georgia, and passed unanimously.


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Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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