Drilling company sued for racial discrimination

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Feb. 18, 2009, 4:50pm

MARSHALL – The only African-American working on an oil rig in Marshall, John Greg Gardner believes he was the subject of racial discrimination including pervasive harassment and wrongful termination.

Alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act, Gardner filed the racial discrimination suit against Unit Texas Drilling LLC and Unit Drilling Co. on Feb. 13 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

The plaintiff worked for the defendants for a few months in 2002, but took a leave of absence for knee surgery.

Gardner returned to work in December 2006 as a motorman and was later promoted to assistant driller. Seven months later, Gardner alleges he was demoted to floor hand so the supervisor could hire a white friend. Although the demotion included a drastic pay cut, Gardner continued to work until he was fired on Nov. 28, 2007.

The plaintiff claims that he became the subject of a steady barrage of racial comments beginning the month he was terminated. Gardner states his supervisor referred to him as a "typical blue gum" and co-workers referred to him as a "coon" and "good ole boy."

Gardner also states his supervisor bragged that Gardner had been blackballed and would never work again after his termination.

The plaintiff also believes that his race was considered when his supervisor told him to pick up cigarette butts from the floor before the safety person came to visit the rig.

According to the court records, Gardner complained about the unfair treatment and racial harassment but was demoted and fired in retaliation.

Gardner is seeking back pay, front pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages, humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, damage to his reputation, and attorney fees.

Alleging the defendants actions were "willful, wanton, intentional, reckless, and malicious," the plaintiff is also seeking punitive damages.

Nacogdoches attorney Curtis B. Stuckey of Stuckey, Garrigan and Castetter Law Offices is representing the plaintiff.

U.S. District Judge T. John Ward will preside over the litigation.

Case No: 2:2009cv00050

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