Former Waste Management employee in Topeka files race discrimination lawsuit

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A former employee with Waste Management in Kansas who claims he was subjected to racial harassment, including working for a supervisor who played racially derogatory videos, has filed a lawsuit against the company.

Robert Smith, a lead heavy equipment operator for the company’s location in Topeka, worked for the company for more than 13 years.

Smith, who is Black, filed a federal lawsuit Nov. 5, 2021, less than six months after he was fired, following a series of incidents he says caused emotional distress.

During the 2020 presidential election, a racist note was taped onto his locker at work.

The document said: “Give a black man a fish and he will eat for a day. Give a black man a free cell phone, food stamps, section 8 housing, a six pack of beer and he’ll vote Democrat the rest of his life,” the lawsuit said.

Coworkers and supervisors called Smith obscenities, played racist videos while he was around and addressed him in mocking manners, the lawsuit said.

He filed complaints with the local human resources department. But according to the lawsuit, the department did not investigate the complaints.

Aside from filing complaints, he told his local supervisor about the incidents. The supervisor, however, allegedly told Smith to “stop nit-picking,” the lawsuit said.

Smith claims he was fired after he and another coworker, who is white, were involved in an accident with a compacter. According to court records, both Smith and the other employee saw no damage to the operating equipment and kept working. They did not file an incident report.

After an investigation was conducted, his supervisor and regional supervisor fired him, but not his coworker, according to the lawsuit.

In a response to the lawsuit that was filed Dec. 14, Waste Management’s attorneys denied the discrimination as well as the incidents described in the lawsuit. The company denied that Smith’s coworker did not report the accident, and said Smith was fired because he failed to report the accident and tried to conceal it.

Smith is asking for at least $100,000 in damages and a jury trial in Kansas City, Kansas.