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Hostile Work Environment At L.A. Community Development Program

Ninoos Benjamin immigrated to the United States from Iran and considers himself Assyrian. But in a Los Angeles city department where African Americans have been pitted against Latinos for promotions, new hires and job perks, he was told to choose a side. "You are either with us or against us," Benjamin claims he was told by an assistant general manager in a harassment lawsuit he filed earlier this week against the City of L.A.

Benjamin began working for Los Angeles' Community Development Department in 2008. After refusing to choose sides, Benjamin claims his worklife was made miserable by constant criticism and harassment.

The hostile work environment led Benjamin to seek outside counseling and he was prescribed medication to help with the stress and anxiety caused by the turf war in the Community Development Department.

In his harassment lawsuit, Benjamin further asserts that an African American assistant general manager for the L.A. Community Development Department had requested that he join in a "smear campaign" against another manager who is Latino. Benjamin refused. Shortly thereafter, a complaint was filed against Benjamin, stating that he had a dangerous temper.

The African American assistant general manager whom Benjamin had refused to support was behind the complaint, according to the lawsuit.

The Community Development Department has control of approximately $3 million of federal grant money and consists of about 300 employees. The department is tasked with the distribution of the grant money to depressed neighborhoods throughout L.A. to fund small business loans, provide job training, pay for after-school programming for youth and assist with family counseling expenses.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "L.A. worker claims racial turf war exists in city department," November 5, 2012

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