SoCal Edison employees allege racial discrimination, preferential treatment

Three more black longtime Southern California Edison employees are suing the utility, alleging they have been wrongfully passed over for promotions in favor of less qualified applicants.

The lawsuits were filed on behalf of Chezelle Pryor-Seward, Kristie Mathis and Lawren Minor this week in Los Angeles Superior Court. Everette Crudup brought the initial case on Friday, alleging she was denied dozens of positions over a nine-year period.

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According to her lawsuit, which alleges racial and gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation, Rosemead-based SCE has promoted co- workers of Crudup who are less skilled, but who have the qualifications of "not being black, not being a woman and not having complained about discrimination or harassment."

A statement released by the utility in response to Crudup's suit says SCE `"has zero tolerance for discrimination in any form. As for the details in this case, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on a pending court case."

Minor, 61, has worked at SCE since 1998 and is currently a senior adviser, according to his court papers.

"Rather than promote based on merit, SCE established, cultivated and maintained a discriminatory promotion system, known informally by some SCE employees as 'the tent,' Minor's suit alleges.
Employees given favorable treatment under the system are typically non-black men younger than 50, who are groomed by being given special assignments or treatment that optimizes their chances of promotion later, according to the Minor suit.

"SCE has discriminated against (Minor) due to his race and age through its actions of offering preferential treatment, including promotion, to plaintiff's less qualified younger non-black co-workers...,'' the complaint alleges.

Mathis, 51, has a master's degree and was hired by SCE in 2009 as a business analyst. Her job and department were eliminated in 2011, but she was rehired three years later as a program analyst and was the only black woman in her group, according to her court papers.

"Despite Ms. Mathis's diligent and exceptional work ..., SCE did not offer or award her a promotion in close to four years," her suit says.

Mathis says that when she was finally promoted, it was to a job that did not allow her to earn overtime, which amounted to a pay cut. Mathis applied for other jobs, but each time SCE gave "unwarranted preferential treatment" to her younger, non-black and/or male colleagues, the suit alleges.

Pryor-Seward's suit states she has two master's degrees and received multiple promotions for the first nine years after she was hired in 1997 as a project analyst.

"In the 12 years since, however, SCE has denied Ms. Pryor-Seward all promotions and all opportunities for upward advancement,'' her suit alleges.

"This is so despite Ms. Pryor-Seward's countless applications for promotions, superb qualifications, robust job experience and excellent performance."

Non-black and male SCE employees have had much more success in career advancement, the Pryor-Seward suit states.

"In fact, in some instances, SCE even lowered the requirements with respect to particular positions so it could select a non-African- American or male co-worker, over Ms. Pryor-Seward, to fill the opening," her suit alleges.

Crudup's suit says that since 2009, she ``has submitted over 100 applications to over 50 different positions. During that time, SCE has denied all promotions and upward advancements for plaintiff, despite plaintiff's superb qualifications and excellent performance.'' She alleges that the interviews she did receive for promotions between 2009 and 2018 were "superficial and dismissive."

CNS contributed to this report