Each day, the owner of the East Point grocery store would call three of his African American employees the n-word or “monkey” or some other racial slur, the employees allege.
The three worked in the meat department at GNT Foods and complained to their boss regularly about the epithets, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court on behalf of the men by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On the walls of their department, their boss had hung racially crude pictures that suggested black people were apes, the complaint says. It notes that they needed their jobs but did not want to endure harassment.
All three employees, identified as Corey Bussey, Justin Jones and Christopher Evans, eventually filed complaints with the EEOC in 2015 alleging the owner had created a racially hostile work environment. At that point, the store owner asked the men to drop their EEOC cases. When they didn’t, the owner fired them, according to a statement from the EEOC.
“Unfortunately, too many employees are discouraged from asserting their rights due to official misconduct such as this,” Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office said in a statement.
The owner of the store was not identified in the EEOC’s release. It could not be determined today whether the same person still owns the business.
The lawsuit says their firing is a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Bussey, Jones and Evans are seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages.
“Employers have a duty to protect their workforce from racially offensive conduct and to take immediate corrective action when necessary,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “When a company’s owner is the one disregarding federal anti-discrimination laws in such a manner, the EEOC’s involvement is indispensable to ensure that employee rights are upheld.”