Suit: Racial slurs at delivery company created hostile work environment

By Jim Boyle | Dec 8, 2014

A terminated employee of a Bucks County-based delivery company says he encountered

racially discriminatory behavior daily from his former co-workers and supervisors for the approximately 12 months he worked there, according to a civil rights suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Sharif Smith, of Philadelphia, seeks undisclosed damages from Prestige Delivery Systems in Levittown on two counts of civil rights violations, including harassment and retaliation.

According to the complaint, Smith was the only African American employed at the Levittown headquarters, surrounded by a mostly Caucasian and Hispanic staff. The situation caused Smith to become subject to repeated racial discrimination and harassment, the suit says.

Court documents say that several of Smith's managers habitually used the "n-word" to refer to African Americans, with one allegedly making regular prejudicial statements such as "black people love grape soda and cheese doodles."

The complaint says that Smith repeatedly asked one of his co-workers to cease referring to him as "the black dude." The co-worker refused, and was soon joined by one of Smith's managers. When the plaintiff reported the hostile work environment to one of the supervisors, he was offered an apology, but no action was taken to correct the situation.

The behavior allegedly continued into September 2014, when Smith directly asked his co-worker to stop using the racial language and refer to him by his name. The suit says that the co-worker responded by attempting to start a fight with the plaintiff. Smith tried to refuse to engage, but one of his managers witnessed the altercation and sent Smith home for the rest of the day.

According to the complaint, the co-worker was not disciplined for his actions, while Smith could not get a direct answer as to whether or not he had been fired. The suit says that the manager told Smith to call a few days later. When the plaintiff made the scheduled call, the supervisor asked him to hold off until the end of the day.

Smith's second and subsequent calls were never answered or returned. He was never permitted to return to work and had been effectively fired from his position. The plaintiff claims that the termination was in retaliation for his initial complaints about the racial harassment and hostile work environment created by the other employees.

The plaintiff is represented by Richard Swartz of Swartz Sidle in Cherry Hill, N.J.

The federal case ID is 2:14-cv-06843-MMB.

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