JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Waste Pro of Florida, alleging repeat patterns of racism and retaliation against employees at the company’s Jacksonville office.
The 13-page lawsuit filed by the EEOC against Waste Pro of Florida details allegations of racism, discrimination and retaliation suffered by a former Black Haitian American employee.
Some of the allegations include the victim being called the N-word by a coworker and being subjected to comments like “go back on the banana boat” and “this is Trump country”.
After complaining to upper management, the suit claims a stuffed monkey carrying an American flag was allegedly left on the victim’s workstation just before a meeting scheduled to discuss race discrimination with maintenance employees.
The lawsuit claims management failed to take corrective action.
“This is brought on behalf of him and a class of Black and Haitian American employees. So, I think it’s a pretty strong claim here,” said Jacksonville civil rights attorney Naphtalie Azor with Azor Law.
Azor noted the fact that the EEOC filed the complaint is significant in and of itself, as few racial discrimination claims rise to that level.
If the allegations are proven to be true, she explains Waste Pro could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
But the damage to the company’s reputation could have consequences outside of the courtroom.
“And also when it comes to things like grants and other types of governmental support that companies can get, those things are also very important,” said Azor.
Waste Pro is contracted with the City of Jacksonville to provide solid waste disposal services.
We asked the Mayor’s Office whether the lawsuit could impact that contract.
“The mayor has no comment at this time, until we have a chance to learn more about the allegations,” said Melissa Ross, Director, Strategic Initiatives & Press Liaison for the City of Jacksonville.
Amy Shay, an attorney representing Waste Pro in the case, sent Action News Jax a statement pushing back against the allegations laid out in the suit.
“This claim by the EEOC is not a finding by a judge or a jury that Waste Pro of Florida did anything wrong. At the time the complaint was made by this employee, Waste Pro acted appropriately in investigating the issue and taking remedial action,” said Shay. “Waste Pro has a diverse workforce with many career employees who stay with the company because the environment is a positive one. Waste Pro prides itself on treating its employees fairly and professionally and is vigorously defending itself against these allegations.”
Azor explained cases like these can take years to come to a resolution, but argued it’s worth the fight to help hold bad actors accountable when appropriate.
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“We show those companies that someone can hold them accountable and that when you have policies in place to prevent discrimination and you’re not enforcing them, it’s almost like you don’t have them,” said Azor.