Discrimination lawsuit alleges employer made derogatory comments against Obama

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau May 27, 2009, 10:00am


MARSHALL – A recently filed discrimination lawsuit alleges a supervisor created a hostile work environment by making derogatory racial comments about Barack Obama, the country's first black president.

Alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act, plaintiffs Tim Blanton, Johnny Lewis and Larry Morrow filed suit against IESI TX Corp., formerly known as Independent Environmental Services Inc., on May 22 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

The African-American plaintiffs state that they are "good, loyal, conscientious employees" and that their former employer discriminated against them through racial harassment, as well as retaliation for opposing racial discrimination.

The plaintiffs allege that the company tolerated racial comments, including derogatory comments about then-presidential candidate Obama.

According to the lawsuit, African-American employees were routinely treated differently.

"For example, when an African-American truck driver would break down, management would wait a substantial period of time before sending out a mechanic to fix the truck," the suit states. "White drivers received much more immediate attention."

Further, the plaintiffs allege white drivers were not disciplined for mechanical problems with their trucks like African-American drivers.

Plaintiff Morrow claims his truck was in frequent need of repair and he was not given mechanic help when needed. He alleges "bogus disciplinary matters were brought against him," for which he was terminated.

Plaintiff Blanton states he was not provided a tool allowance or had his educational expenses paid like the white employees.

In addition, Blanton argues that a white employee with less seniority was promoted over him.

He says he routinely had his shift changed and was placed on undesirable shifts while white employees were not.

When he complained of an employee's racial comments, Blanton claims his supervisor told him that he should not return to work without approval.

He was subsequently allowed to come back to work, but Blanton states his job was on a "day to day" basis. Terminated the following month for poor job performance, Blanton claims he was replaced by a non-African-American.

With a similar story as Blanton's, plaintiff Lewis claims he was terminated over work absences and replaced by a white employee.

The plaintiffs are seeking back pay, reinstatement and/or front pay, fringe benefits, mental, emotional, and psychological damages.

Seeking punitive damages, the former employees allege that the defendant's actions were "malicious and done in conscious disregard of and with deliberate indifference to the rights and needs of plaintiffs."

Nacogdoches attorney Alex A. Castetter of Stuckey, Garrigan and Castetter Law Offices is representing the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial.

Presiding over the litigation, U.S. District Judge T. John Ward has referred the case to Magistrate Judge Charles Everingham for pretrial proceedings.

Case No 2:09cv000163

Was the company's toleration of derugatory comments about Barack Obama evidence of racial discrimination? What do you think? Vote in our on line poll on the Southeast Texas Record home page.

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