The San Francisco Police Department is under fire for racism among its officers. Amid allegations of racism among its police officers, investigators found racist text messages on the personal cell phones of two officers during a criminal probe. The officers, who were both Chinese Americans, both have since resigned.

The officers’ cell phones had slurs against minorities and colleagues who were perceived to be gay. The texts also ridiculed blacks in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black man was shot and killed. They ridiculed the shooting in 2014 by police of a mentally ill man carrying a stun gun. They also sent each other pictures with racist captions. One was a picture of smoke rising above San Francisco with the words “Must be Korean BBQ”. The police officers involved are currently being investigated for suspected overtime abuse and unauthorized access of driving records.

As a result, San Francisco’s Police Chief has ordered all officers to finish an anti-harassment class within the next month. This scandal is the second texting scandal since 2014. There are approximately 2,100 SFPD officers. About half of them are white, which is roughly the same as the white population in San Francisco. About a third of San Francisco’s residents are Asian, but Asians only make up 16 percent of the city’s police officers. Nine percent of SFPD officers are black, but blacks only account for six percent of the population.

Another scandal the SFPD is dealing with is another officer’s use of inappropriate language around two other department employees. The officer used language with sexual and racial undertones, which was reported by the employees. The officer was reassigned to a different position while an investigation was underway. The case was forwarded to the Police Commission with a recommendation that the officer face discipline, including possible termination. The Police Commission President asked the SFPD to release information about the officer who used the sexual and racist language to emphasize the seriousness of the conduct.

Under both federal and state law, racial discrimination and harassment, and sexual discrimination and harassment are illegal in the workplace. Harassment includes racial or sexual slurs, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, derogatory or offensive remarks about a person’s race, color, or gender, the display of racially-offensive symbols, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. The victim and harasser can be the same sex or the same race. However, simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious are not illegal. By law, the harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or even someone who is not an employee of the employer.

Companies are under a very serious obligation to prevent and stop racial or sexual discrimination and harassment in the workplace. If they fail to do so, the company can be sued for discrimination or harassment, and can be forced to pay damages for lost wages, lost benefits, and damages for emotional distress.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty and Seth I. Rosenberg believe that no employee should face discrimination or harassment at work, especially on the basis of race, sex, or other similar characteristics. If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination, call the Oakland workplace discrimination attorneys at Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. Our attorneys can help. We work with clients throughout the Oakland-San Francisco area, including Hayward, Fairfield, Tracy, San Jose, Berkeley, Sacramento, and the surrounding areas. You may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation on your case.

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