An employee of Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro's office says Navarro and other staffers have harassed and discriminated against her based on race.(Photo: Suchat Pederson, The News Journal) Buy Photo
Taken individually, the incidents might seem benign.
The alleged touching of her cornrows,comments about her nails and high heels, and a rejected request to attend a work conference could be explained away.
Then there was the time she said someone went through her office to find handwriting samples to determine if she had written an anonymous letter of complaint.
Fleur McKendell, a manager in the Delaware Insurance Commissioner's office, says a series of perceived backhanded compliments, aggression and disparate treatment from her bosses amounts to a hostile work environment.
McKendell is accusing Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro and his subordinates of racial and sexual discrimination and retaliation — allegations denied by Navarro and the deputy who says he was fired amid the controversy.
The state already offered McKendell up to a year of paid leave plus $15,000 to withdraw her claims and apply for another state job, according to an audio recording provided by McKendell of a conversation between her and a state human resources representative.
Now the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Philadelphia is determining whether she was harassed.
McKendell, 38, says she was targeted with inappropriate comments and unfair accusations and was denied professional opportunities by her superiors because of her race and gender.
She said she is the only African American manager in the insurance office.
"They're microaggressions that women of color who work in predominantly white workplaces often face," she said.