Black Housekeeper Denied Church Job Because of Priest's "Racist Dog

The Catholic Diocese of Memphis in Tennessee is denying two housekeepers’ claims that one of the women was denied a job due to racial discrimination.

In a statement, the diocese said it launched an investigation into an incident where a Black female was denied a job as a house cleaner because the priest’s dog is “racist.” LaShundra Allen, a Black woman, was taken by her white coworker Emily Weaver to the home of Reverend Jacek Kowal on May 3 for her first day of being assigned to clean the rectory of the Catholic Church of Incarnation in Collierville, Tennessee, USA Today reported. Weaver, an employee at Master Building Service Contractors, was training Allen as her replacement.

The statement, written by Reverend David P. Talley, says that a parish staff member told Allen and Weaver that she was concerned about Allen entering the rectory because “Fr. Jacek’s dog is kinda racist.”

“They were aware that the dog was very protective of his home, and there was a risk that the dog would bite a stranger entering the rectory without his owner present. The staff were aware that years ago the dog had been threatened by a person who happened to be African American, causing the dog to be somewhat more agitated initially around strangers with darker skin, until the dog gets to know them,” the statement read.

“The replacement employee who was planning to enter the rectory was an African American person the dog had never met.”

Talley called the staff member’s words “highly unfortunate and imprecise,” but he clarified “they were not motivated by racial animus.” In his letter, he also states that the two employees came to clean the rectory unannounced, but Weaver told USA Today that it was their normal cleaning day.

The statement also noted that the dog, who is a German Shepard, bit Kowal in 2017 “while trying to crate [the dog] in an agitated state.”

“Rather, the concern by all involved was the safety of these women, one of whom was a stranger to the dog, and they knew that attempting to crate the dog would be dangerous when its owner was not present. Their concern was to prevent the cleaning company employees from being injured,” the statement read.

Weaver stated that she had first met Reverend Kowal’s dog, whose name is Ceasar, without Kowal present and with Ceasar outside of his crate. She and Allen said they will continue to pursue legal action over the incident despite the diocese's investigation stating the claims of racial discrimination were “unfounded.”

"Why wasn't LaShundra given the chance to get to know him?" Weaver said, according to USA Today.

"Those staff represent a religion, a church, a school. In fact, one of the biggest Catholic organizations in the area. They're continuing to be disrespectful by attempting to brush the comments made off."

In May, a sheriff’s deputy from Wake County, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to siccing a K-9 dog on an unarmed Black man last year. Sheriff’s Deputy Cameron Broadwell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges after ordering a K-9 dog to attack Kyron Hinton last year, The News & Observer reported.

Broadwell and other officers were responding to a 911 call of a man who was reportedly holding a gun in the middle of Raleigh Boulevard. In the video shown to the jurors of Broadwell’s case, Broadwell can be heard yelling to Hinton “Get on the ground now or you’re gonna get bit,” before releasing the dog. Hinton suffered 21 bites, a broken nose, and a fractured orbital bone.

Following the attack, Broadwell was charged with “assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, assault inflicting serious bodily injury, and willfully failing to discharge duties,” The News & Observer reported. The charges against the former sheriff’s deputy were dropped in exchange for him pleading guilty to willfully failing to discharge himself from duty. He also gave up his law enforcement certificate as part of his plea deal.

District Attorney Lorrin Freeman told the publication it was a top priority to make sure Broadwell gave up his position as a law enforcement officer.

“The actions of Mr. Broadwell on that evening were unnecessary, excessive, and against the policies of his agency,” Freeman previously told The News & Observer. “Today marks a big day in this community. We appreciate the acceptance of responsibility.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.