Former Carmel equity manager alleges discrimination in lawsuit

Carmel City hall 2col

Carmel’s former equity manager has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit nearly eight months after he was fired from the position.

Timothy Knight, who was the city’s equity manager from May 2021 to March 2022, claims the city violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

The complaint filed Nov. 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana lists Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, Human Resources Manager Lisa Hartz and Director of Administration James Crider as co-defendants.

Knight is represented by Indianapolis attorney Terrance Kinnard of the law firm Kinnard, Scott, Rowley, Powers. Kinnard did not immediately respond to a request for comment from IBJ.

“The City of Carmel does not comment on pending litigation,” said Dan McFeely, a city spokesman.

Knight requested a jury trial, and is seeking back pay and related compensation, compensatory and consequential damages, emotional distress damages, punitive damages, litigation costs and expenses, and “all other appropriate relief.”

Prior to filing suit, Knight presented his claims to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. He received a “right to sue” letter on Sept. 16.

Knight, who is Black, was initially hired in May 2021 as employee development coordinator before his title was changed to equity manager.

Knight’s job duties included implementing diversity, equity and inclusion training for city employees, along with professional coaching and leadership development.

Before taking the job with the city, Knight worked as a police officer, supervisor and detective with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and has experience in employment and business development. The suit refers to Knight, who a doctorate in human services from Capella University, as Dr. Knight.

What the suit says

The complaint says former Human Resources Director Barbara Lamb informed Knight before he began working for the city that “a culture of anti-African American racial discrimination exists within the rank and file of the City of Carmel” and that there was a need for diversity, equity and inclusion training.

However, some Carmel employees “began resisting the idea of an African American (Knight) conducting city-wide diversity training,” according to the suit.

Lamb agreed and insisted that Knight suspend all in-person diversity training and forbid him from conducting virtual training until after her retirement at the end of 2021, the suit says.

The lawsuit claims discrimination from additional city departments followed and Lamb suspended Knight’s training for the Carmel Fire Department.

“The truth is the heads of various city departments, in concert with human resource professionals and staff, simply did not want an African American providing training on racial diversity,” the lawsuit says. “This discriminatory action essentially prevented Dr. Knight from performing the principle work for which he was hired, and which Carmel so desperately needed.”

In late October 2021, Lamb invited Knight to apply for the city’s director of human resources position. However, the complaint says she soon came under pressure to “exclude Dr. Knight based on his race.”

It adds that before Knight interviewed for the human resources position, Lamb told Knight that he had not completed any in-person diversity training. Knight responded that he did not complete the training because she ordered him to suspend the work.

On Nov. 16, 2021, Lamb told Knight she forwarded Hartz’s name to Brainard to serve as her replacement as director of the human resources department.

“Ms. Lamb seemed to justify this decision further based on Dr. Knight’s failure to perform the diversity training she ordered suspended,” the lawsuit says.

The complaint says Lamb made the recommendation despite Hartz being less qualified for the position and that the city of Carmel “did not wish for an African American to hold such a high-level position within the city administration.”

The lawsuit says on Jan. 4, 2022, that Lamb referred to Knight as “stupid,” crazy,” “Pollyanna,” and asked “what planet” from which he came. Lamb had remained as director of human resources past the end of the year.

Lamb did not immediately respond to a request for comment from IBJ.

Hartz and Crider fired Knight on March 10, 2022. The lawsuit says Hartz was “angry and intolerant” when she explained to Knight that he was being fired for insubordination, and was “ambiguous” in describing when and how Knight was insubordinate and offered no documentation.

Carmel later objected to Knight’s application for unemployment benefits. During a hearing on July 27, the lawsuit says Carmel’s legal counsel, Hartz and other city employees attended and alleged Knight conducted “sexually explicit conversations” with them.

The complaint alleges the city maintains employment-related policies and procedures that “tacitly or explicitly authorize discrimination and retaliation against the protected class of African American employees of the City of Carmel.”

“In light of being a municipal employer, the need for specialized training and supervision is so obvious, and the inadequacy of training and/or supervision is so likely to result in the violation of federal rights,” the lawsuit says.

Carmel has not filled the vacant equity manager position.

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14 thoughts on “Former Carmel equity manager alleges discrimination in lawsuit

  1. The lesson is don’t have equity or diversity managers at all. They are make work positions and there are zero studies that show any benefit of diversity training. Obviously there are legions of equity consultants eager for work that would say otherwise, but in the real world it serves no benefit and employees rightly resent being forced to submit to lectures that imply there is something wrong with them.

    1. Yep. These people are in it for the grift. It’s essentially a shakedown. If you don’t hire one, the (soon-to-be vestigial) Blue Checkmarks of Twitter will promulgate your institution’s ESG heresy and defame you until you do. If you ever have to terminate them for anything other than to stave off a financial collapse, they’ll lawyer up right away and allege discrimination. It’s an entire niche industry.

      Just a reminder: the nascent white-collar scandal of FTX (essentially Bernie Madoff on steroids) was, like Madoff, a massive fundraising initiative for a certain political party. And FTX received terrific ESG scores. Now proven to be a criminal enterprise. Shocking.

    2. Anyone, much less a government employee, getting fired that quickly indicates a much bigger issue. As always in these cases, the Plaintiff gets to litigate and alginate their case in the press. When the actual facts come out, the “journalists” will be long gone

  2. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….I am shocked…SHOCKED I TELL YOU! That the city that once thought it was a good idea to issue car tags to help identify those that live there vs. those that don’t, would ever be sued for outright discrimination.

    1. It’s downright madness. Obviously, this is a very one-sided presentation of the case since Carmel chose not to comment. However, given the fairly overt tendencies of the Carmel leadership in the past 20+ years, it doesn’t sound too unlikely. I could absolutely see them being pressured to hire for this role, conceding, and then placing such impossible limits on the person they could never be successful. I would also argue that the issues ALWAYS start from the top…hopefully we are nearing a change in the guard.

  3. “Equity” itself is a discriminatory concept the way the DEI identity obsessed “promoters” (colleges and big corporations) try to integrate it into our culture.

    DEI is a counterproductive philosophy.

    Traditional values like hard work, excellence in all you do, and kindness (along with a good dose of common sense) will lead to better outcomes.

    No you are not a bad person if you oppose DEI!!!

    1. This is a very narrow view. While too much oxygen or too much water can kill a person, the opposite is true in much higher frequencies. Taking the time to learn about another culture, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. can provide you with a much more holistic view of the world and people around you. We ALL have biases that are a product of our own life experiences. An effective DEI leader, and an open-minded individual, will work to consciously recognize them and take steps to avoid their negative impacts.

  4. Before the 2020 summer of love BLM riots, there were no DEI officers. The corporate guilt reactions came to life that summer, all in fear of being exposed as corporate bigots and racists. The solution, out of fear, was the new DEI folks being hired left and right to show the world how concerned corporate America was. Another facade and another scam.

    1. That’s a completely baseless claim. DEI efforts have been in place at many large organizations since well before the unrest of 2020. Your statement is just false.

  5. DE&I training is a way to understand there are other beliefs, opinions and contributions outside of the “sameness” that a lot of people seem scared to accept. There’s a world surrounding this sameness bubble that doesn’t all look like you and will continue in that direction like it or not. To say diversity doesn’t make organizations better is an example of the fear created by the groups of people rejecting any DE&I initiatives.

    1. It’s the “E” in DEI that is the sticking point for me. Sure diversity is great. And learning about others with different backgrounds is great. Perhaps even beneficial to creativity and teamwork.

      But equity interweaved with diversity/inclusion implies those with a “less privileged” identity (race/gender) should be given ‘’more opportunity” than those for from “more privileged” identity groups (race/gender). In order to accomplish this, you must discriminate on identity and make “identity group based” assumptions about the individual which could be dead wrong.

      It’s happening to Asians in America who lose out on college admissions (regardless of the individual Asian person’s actual privilege in life) because of polices drivived from the DEI philosophy.

      When do policies like these “run out of utility” over the course of time?

    2. DEI training is predicated on the infantile notion that a few core demographic traits (mostly race, but sexuality, gender identity, national origin, and sex factor in as well) determine the capacity to offer expansive ideas…and that these same traits overwhelmingly govern thinking. Best of all, it seeks to shoehorn compliance with its own strictures (the “DEI” appropriately resembles the Latin word for “God”–this is a religion after all) thereby guaranteeing that an institution will result in a “sameness bubble”, and, partially out of fear of deviating from the hivemind, people with potential heterodox or simply creative opinion will keep their mouths shut.

      Diversity of thought will almost always help an organization become more nimble and resilient. But that’s the opposite of what DEI hopes to impose. It only sees diversity in terms of melanin and genitals. But it does help keep lots of otherwise unemployable people fueling a grift that is very profitable…for them. So it’s no surprise that they’ll fight it tooth and nail.

  6. How comes it takes at least two Carmel police cars to pull over cars with minorities in them? How many minorities are employed by Carmel Government? This doesn’t shock me a bit.

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