Washington state equity director fired after complaints of racist comments, fat-shaming colleague
Washington state’s Office of Equity director was fired amid accusations of running a hostile work environment and racism.
Karen Johnson, who was the state’s first Office of Equity director, was terminated from her job after an investigation of her conduct revealed several complaints about her conduct, including a “perceived to be evidence of bias against Mexicans,” according to a report by Jason Rantz of KTTH.
The investigation was conducted by MFR Law Group PLLC, and found several current and former employees complained about Johnson’s “biased and insensitive conduct,” with one staffer claiming she told a “self-identified” Mexican she has a “distrust” of “Mexican people.”
“This may take some time for me because I generally distrust Mexican people,” Johnson allegedly said. “Mexican people have the option of being White when it is convenient for them.”
Another employee, who identified themselves as Hispanic, said Johnson had an “us vs. them” mentality when it came to Hispanic coworkers, often singling them out for not having “lived experiences” of racism.
Johnson’s management style was brought up in several examples, including an instance of her proclaiming she rules with brass knuckles and a velvet glove,” which the employee argued was a “metaphor was associated with White supremacy because of its violence.”
Other employees said Johnson would often stereotype on the basis of race and gender, with one White female employee claiming the former director told her not to braid her hair because it was “cultural appropriation.”
Another employee claimed Johnson attacked them because of their weight.
“You want to be married and have a family, don’t you? If so, you have to take care of you,” Johnson allegedly said.
The accusations led to the former director to be given the option to resign or terminated, with her office telling KTTH the dismissal was due to “high vacancy rates, high employee turnover, and budgetary concerns,” as well as a “lack of stability.”
“I am absolutely blessed that I got to do this job, and I stand by what I did, and I stand by the community that I was trying to help in my tenure at the Office of Equity,” Johnson said in a statement posted to social media. “I would hope that [Gov. Inslee] continues to provide employees across the state the opportunities that they deserve and continue the work of accountability to make everyone’s lives better.”
According to the Washington Office of Equity website, Johnson has since been replaced by Megan Matthews, who is currently serving as acting director. The office did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.