Ex-Employees Allege Racist, Sexist Culture at Boston Water and Sewer Commission

A lawsuit filed by former employees accuses the Boston Water and Sewer Commission of racist and sexist behavior.

Barbara Gillis says the unbelievable behavior began on her first day.

"It was really devastating to be in a workplace where I was being treated this way," said Gillis.

Gillis says she was told not to sit with African-American co-workers at her job at the Boston Water and Sewer Commission.

"She went to take a seat on a bench and somebody said, 'You don't cross the Mason-Dixon Line,'" said her attorney, Nick Carter.

The stunning treatment she allegedly faced for years is now detailed in a lawsuit just filed against the agency.

Gillis accuses supervisors and co-workers of racism, gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

"It's not a one-off," said Carter. "This is not just one bad character, this is a culture there that has persisted for years, if not decades."

The lawsuit filed by Gillis and another co-worker alleges that women and minorities are routinely discriminated against, racial slurs are common, and retaliation against workers who complain is routine.

"Everything that I experienced in that place has definitely changed my life," said Gillis.

"It goes without saying that the language and actions alleged here should not be tolerated in any workplace and we hope that this is resolved as quickly as possible," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement.

It's too late for Gillis and her co-worker, who have now left the department because of the work environment.

"They literally have doctor's orders — you can't work, you can't go back to Boston Water and Sewer," said Carter. "It's that toxic."

The agency declined to comment on the lawsuit.

"I was anxiety-ridden," said Gillis. "It was a really hostile work environment, just plagued with bullying and retaliation.”

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