BOSTON (CBS) – Tracey Tavares and Corinne Senna are court officers in the New Bedford District Court. Both say they have endured years of harassment and discrimination. Tavares told the I-Team, “It was the exclusions it was the name calling.” She said it really got rough in 2013, “When I was sexually harassed by three male white court officers.” Tavares said she filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Corinne Senna said her experience was different. “My first complaint with the MCAD was in 2017,” she said. She told the I-Team she was moved out of the lock up area where they keep prisoners. She said she was told two women could not be in charge of the area. “Since then it just snowballed,” Senna said. “I was told where I could go, what bathroom I can use.”
The two filed several complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination but, instead of things getting better, they got worse.
Attorney Christopher Trundy represents the women. “Both of them have just gone through a torrent of retaliation,” Trundy said. “Both in terms of opportunity and in terms of the daily condition of the workplace.”
Tavares said it got so bad she got physically ill. “I was living every single day with hyper vigilance and had bad anxiety going to work crying throwing up before going to work I would actually go to work before my shift so I could acclimate myself,” Tavares said. “Because I knew I had to go face all this drama.”
The I-Team obtained the 2019 fiscal year Trial Court diversity report. The data shows nearly 78 percent of court officers are male and more than 71 percent are white.
In the same fiscal year, Trial Court employees filed 59 civil rights complaints – largely claiming harassment and sex or race discrimination, but violations were only found in seven percent of those cases.
In fiscal year 2020 the number of complaints nearly doubled. Employees filed more than 116 claims, of those less than 13 percent were found to be violations.
“It is a system that reflects ingrained racism,” Trundy said. “It is a real challenge to be a Black person in any capacity in the Trial Court. I think it is exponentially difficult to be a Black woman. There are so few of them.”
Senna and Tavares are now suing the Trial Court and others.
Tavares said she now has to watch her back. “I have to look over my shoulder for asserting my right as a Black woman to not be racially discriminated against, to not be sexually harassed to have the same rights you are afforded,” she said.
Senna said for her it comes down to equality, telling the I-Team, “I want to be treated equal. I want to be equal.”
The Trial Court had no comment on the lawsuit. But said it it has now established new policies, training and an office of compliance to oversee issues of harassment and discrimination.