Black, Gay Federal Prosecutor Alleges Discrimination
By Ryan J. Reilly | January 21, 2022 12:23 pm

An assistant U.S. attorney in California has filed suit alleging that the Justice Department discriminated against him because he is black and gay.

Ira Daves, currently employed as an assistant U.S. attorney working in the civil division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, alleges that he was given “dead-end assignments” and was not given the “preferential treatment” given to other white attorneys.

The lawsuit, initially filed in 2008 and naming then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey as the defendant, alleges that Daves, who has mostly worked on Title VII employment discrimination cases in his 14 years in the U.S. attorney’s office, has reached a dead-end in his career because of a disagreement with his managers over the types of cases he is qualified to handle.

An answer to the suit, which was amended and lists current Attorney General Eric Holder as the defendant, was filed by acting U.S. Attorney Karen P. Hewitt of the Southern District of California and special assistants Cindy M. Cipriani and Timothy C. Stutler in December. It denied Daves’ charges of discrimination.

According to Daves’ suit, “African-American attorneys who have devoted the better part of their legal careers working in the Civil Division have not received career advancements even remotely comparable. At least two white male attorneys were, without controversy, provided secretaries who could take dictation. Daves was denied such assistance, without discussion.”

According to the lawsuit, supervisors “simply could not see — or perhaps would not allow themselves or others to see — someone like Daves — black, openly gay, assertive on issues related to diversity and gender — representing the office in highly visible cases. Their view of Daves’ abilities, insofar as they were denigrating, were closely tied to deeply ingrained race and gender biases, as were their reactions to Daves’ personality, which often contradicted their expectations of how a black man holding a subordinate position should behave.”

Equal Employment Opportunity laws prohibit discrimination “based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities, or based on myths or assumptions about an individual’s genetic information.” The Office of Personnel Management has interpreted the prohibition of discrimination based on conduct to include discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Legislation is pending in both houses of Congress to codify the ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation. In November, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez testified on behalf of one of the bills before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

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