Welder says termination due to racial slurs against him

Kelly Holleran Oct. 27, 2014, 12:46pm

A black man has filed suit against his former employer, alleging he was fired after he was subjected to racial harassment.

Guy Richards alleges he was working as a welder in the fabrication department of defendant Lufkin Industries, when a white foreman supervisor named Justin McMahon began using racial slurs against Richards. 

By March 2011, Richards had also become a foreman 9, which is a supervisor. 

"McMahon, then also a Foreman 9 working in the same area, persisted in calling Richards (racial epithet),' becoming bolder and more humiliating in his harassment of Richards," the suit filed Sept. 12 in the Lufkin Division of the Eastern District of Texas. "Richards made it obvious that he was offended. This treatment constitutes racial harassment."

Richards and McMahon both reported to a manager named Jason Milstead. After Richards had approached McMahon to ask him to stop his harassment, McMahon proceeded to report the incident to Milstead, according to the complaint.

Milstead then summoned Richards to his office and used a raised voice and angry tone to berate Richards, the complaint says.

"Milstead angrily said Richards was being childish, that he [Milstead] was not there to babysit, and that he [Milstead] just wanted it, apparently Richards's opposition to racial harassment, to stop," the suit states. "In front of the other supervisors, Milstead tried to prevent Richards from responding to the verbal abuse, and became even angrier when Richards tried to respond. This was an inappropriate response to the harassment and was in retaliation for Richards' efforts to oppose and accurately report harassment."

Following the conversation with Milstead, Richards went to those higher up in the company, the suit states. The human resources director informed Richards he would investigate the incident but that Richards would be fired if his claims were found to be false, the complaint says.

Although multiple employees confirmed McMahon's racial slurs against Richards, Lufkin's managers continued to downplay his harassment, according to the complaint.

"In response to management's attempts to minimize McMahon's racial hostility, a white employee reported that McMahon had openly expressed his racial hostility to white employees," the suit states.

Throughout the spring and summer 2011, McMahon continued to call Richards a racial epithet," but only when the two were alone with no witnesses close by," the complaint says.

Richards was provided a new area of supervision away from McMahon, but was required to do the work of two supervisors in his new position, he alleges.

Desperate to obtain a new position, Richards sought many different supervisor roles within the company but was not hired for any of them, according to the complaint. Other, less-experienced employees were given the work, the suit states.

"Richards had more seniority on the second or third shift than any other Foreman 9 interested in at least three first-shift Foreman 9 openings, but he was denied these opportunities on account of retaliation," the complaint says.

Various different harassment situations ensued, causing Richards to suffer from hypertension and panic attacks, he alleges. He began to miss work for short bursts of time due to his heightened stress levels, according to the complaint.

Following a two-week absence, Richards filled out a time card when he returned to work, the suit states. The payroll clerk called him to inform him that he had been at work Nov. 16 and needed to fill it out on his time sheet, the complaint says. He did not argue with her but did say that he did not remember working that day. He corrected his time sheet at her urging, according to the complaint.

On Dec. 7, 2012, Richards was fired because of falsified time records, the suit states.

"The real reason was because of his race and retaliation for his having opposed racial harassment," the complaint says.

In his complaint, Richards seeks a declaratory judgment recognizing that Lufkin violated his rights. He is also seeking compensatory damages, plus lost pay, fringe benefits, punitive damages, attorney fees, costs and pre- and post-judgment interest.

Timothy B. Garrigan of Stuckey, Garrigan and Castetter Law Offices in Nacogdoches will represent Richards.

Lufkin Division of the Eastern District of Texas case number: 9:14-CV-136.

This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at the Lufkin Division of the Eastern District of Texas. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt and it represents only one side of the story.

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