Black employee fired by Family Dollar after she reported discrimination, NC suit says

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A Black woman who worked nights and weekends at Family Dollar as a second job said a white, male colleague made disparaging comments about her race and threatened her, prompting her to request a transfer.

She got fired instead, according to federal court filings.

Now the former employee is suing in North Carolina federal court, saying Family Dollar discriminated and retaliated against her for reporting the harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars race-based discrimination in the workplace.

A lawyer representing the woman did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Thursday, Dec. 30, and a representative from Family Dollar declined to comment on pending litigation.

According to the lawsuit filed Dec. 27 in the Middle District of North Carolina, the woman works during the week as an intake coordinator at a mental health facility. In 2018, she took a second job as an assistant manager at a Family Dollar store in Durham.

The woman was frequently assigned to work with the same white man, who she said was hostile toward her from the start.

He would “yell in her face, tell her to hurry up, and threaten that ‘something bad’ would happen to her if she did not close the store quickly,” the complaint states. The woman subsequently asked her manager to work with someone else, saying “working with him made her uncomfortable, and she feared that he may become violent.”

But her manager ignored the request, her lawyer said.

According to the complaint, the woman asked her colleague why he was so aggressive during their interactions.

“Is it because I’m Black or because I’m a woman?” she said. “It’s because I’m Black, isn’t it?”

“There, I didn’t have to say it,” he reportedly replied. “You said it for me.”

About six months after she started working at Family Dollar, there reportedly was a break-in at the store while the woman was not working. When she returned, her lawyer said, the same colleague accused of harassing her demanded to know where she had been.

She questioned why he was asking, according to the lawsuit, and he reportedly responded that “of course, it was someone Black who robbed the store.”

A short while later, someone from another store filled in for their regular manager. The woman had worked past the end of her shift and tapped the manager on the shoulder to ask about leaving, her lawyer said.

According to the complaint, the manager “whipped around and responded, ‘What the hell is your problem?’”

The white, male colleague then reportedly came running from his register, screaming, “leave her the f--- alone, you Black b----.”

“Plaintiff felt completely unsafe and feared for her safety until two customers in the store came and got between (them) and assured her that they would not let (him) near her,” the lawsuit states.

The colleague subsequently reported her to their regular manager for “causing problems,” her lawyer said.

Without help from her supervisor and “after months of attempting to endure (the) derogatory comments and threats,” the complaint states, the woman called Family Dollar’s district manager and requested a transfer. He reportedly agreed.

But according to the lawsuit, the woman’s regular manager was angry she went “straight over her head” with upper management and asked her to resign.

Believing the district manager was handling the situation, the woman didn’t resign but agreed to turn in her keys to the store. She later called Human Resources to ask about the transfer and was told it was no longer an option because she didn’t accept the transfer offer in time, the complaint states.

The district manager had supposedly given the woman the option to transfer to six different stores, Human Resources told her.

“When plaintiff attempted to explain that (the district manager) had not communicated any of those options to her, the HR representative accused plaintiff of lying and stated that plaintiff was fired effective immediately,” her lawyer said.

According to the lawsuit, the expired transfer offer was a cover-up for the real reason Family Dollar fired the woman, which her attorney said was motivated by race.

The woman is seeking more than $75,000 in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages, all unpaid compensation and attorneys’ fees to cover the cost of the litigation.

Family Dollar has not responded to the complaint, court filings show.

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