An African American woman employed by the California Republican Party filed a lawsuit this week against the organization saying she encountered an “unending cycle of racially charged” harassment, discrimination and retaliation in 2019 by her supervisors.
The lawsuit, filed on Monday in Sacramento County Superior Court, claims Botisha McKnight is the only African American employee of the California Republican Party and was hired in April 2019 in a record-keeping position.
The behavior McKnight experienced, according to the suit, included one supervisor, Alice Jungwirth, using racial stereotypes about Black women.
During her employment, the lawsuit alleges, Jungwirth asked McKnight in 2019 if her hair was real and asked about her hair length.
Afterward, the supervisor “started laughing and stated she knows it’s racist, but she just had to say it,” the complaint alleges.
The complaint alleges Jungwirth made other comments about McKnight’s hair, and also aired racial stereotypes about Black families.
Months later, McKnight emailed a formal complaint to California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Patterson about the harassment, the suit alleges. After McKnight made the complaint, she alleges she experienced retaliation from Cynthia Bryant, Jungwirth’s supervisor. Jungwirth is Bryant’s niece, according to the lawsuit.
The retaliation, according to the suit, included assigning McKnight “impossible” work that she was not trained to complete or included in her job responsibilities.
Byrant, who was employed at the organization through the November election, declined to comment on the case. Jungwirth could not be reached for comment.
McKnight is still employed with the organization, according to California Republican Party spokesman Hector Barajas. He declined to comment on whether Jungwirth continues to work there.
“The CAGOP is an equal opportunity employer and has always employed and been welcoming to team members from all backgrounds. We immediately investigated these claims when they were first made back in late-2019 and took prompt remedial action at that time,” he said in a statement. “The Plaintiff has continued working for CRP without interruption in the same role for which she was hired. As this matter is in litigation, we will not be commenting further at this time.”
The harassment occurred in 2019 over a six-month period, said Jamie Wright, an attorney with J. Wright Law Group in Los Angeles.
Wright, who was retained by McKnight in 2020, said they moved forward with the lawsuit after they received a right-to-sue letter from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
The lawsuit also alleges that less qualified, white employees were supported and promoted during their employment, while Knight was “harassed and degraded repeatedly for months.”
The lawsuit names the California Republican Party, Jungwirth, and Bryant as defendants.
McKnight is seeking monetary compensation, the cost of attorneys’ and legal fees, punitive damages and a declaratory judgment according to the suit.
“The statements made to Ms. McKnight are reprehensible and no one should ever expect to subject to this level of harassment and obscene comments in the workplace,” Wright said.
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