In the same week that George Floyd died, a cake decorated with a Black penis showed up in the conference room of the Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office, according to a formal complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Macomb County, Michigan.
Three female morgue employees were fired Thursday following a due-process hearing, according to county officials. A fourth employee remains on paid administrative leave as investigators continue to question former employees about allegations involving racist and sexist behavior in the office.
An employee — a death investigator and person of color — said she long wanted to report the alleged workplace offensive behavior, but feared retaliation so she stayed quiet. She said it had gone on for at least five years.
The complaint states that “the office culture is tainted with racism toward people of color. This was not only ignored by managing personnel, but participated in by the supervising staff.”
The death investigator says she has overheard insensitive and racist comments from staff when dealing with African American families coming to the morgue to inquire about their loved ones.
- A decomposed body of an African American male had arrived at the morgue. When the parents arrived, they had difficulty identifying the body, unsure that it was their son. The death investigator recalled one of the morgue workers telling her: “Show them a picture of his penis. Maybe they’ll recognize him by that.”
- Recently, a distraught family appeared at the morgue and damaged some doors. When the investigator called 911 and a supervisor to report the incident, the supervisor “later called back and said, ‘Are they black? … They can break the doors and nothing will happen to them with everything going on, because they are black. They’ll just say they were upset,’ ” states the complaint.
- The death investigator says that she has often been given the responsibility of identifying the bodies of African Americans whose families have been considered “hostile” or “difficult” by office staff. When those families show up at the morgue, she says, “I have been told, ‘Go deal with your people.’ ”
The employee says she’s been working in a cliquey environment, where penis jokes and decorations are the norm, with penis screen savers, genitalia on sticky notes, and penis-shaped confetti on counters and floors. A previous employee was fired in 2016 for filing a sexual harassment claim, while other employees have resigned rather than adapt to the offensive office culture.
But the cake was the last straw for the death investigator.
“I was livid — furious actually,” the woman said in a recent interview with the Free Press. “All these cities are on fire for the Black Lives Matter movement, and here’s my staff eating a black penis cake as a joke? That really pushed me over the edge.”
See the story at the Detroit Free Press.