An employee of the U.S. Postal Service claims her employer fought tooth and nail to cover for a discriminatory co-worker who allegedly called her a “lazy n—r” and even pulled a knife on her at work after she reported his behavior. Now, she’s suing the federal agency for doing nothing as the abuse spiraled out of control.
On June 3, Kimberly Jackson filed a lawsuit against the postmaster general of a Kansas City, Missouri, branch post office, along with the USPS. The suit, which The Daily Beast has reviewed, alleges that Jackson, who has worked for the USPS since 1997, immediately dealt with torment from a co-worker, Michael Wentworth, when she started at the USPS facility at Kansas City International Airport in 2016.
Jackson, who is Black, alleges that Wentworth, a white man, repeatedly taunted her with racial slurs and offensive actions. She alleged Wentworth called her “Black bitch” and “lazy n—r,” told her that she was unlikely to pass a criminal background investigation for the job, and spread false rumors that she only got the job through sexual favors. The lawsuit also alleges Wentworth would turn the lights out when she was alone in the restroom or working, try intimidate her by rattling locks and blocking her from leaving the restroom, brush up against her in the janitor’s closet, stare at her while grabbing his crotch, and essentially stalk her while at work.
Wentworth allegedly let the air out of Jackson’s tires and threatened her with a knife after she reported his behavior, the suit adds.
Jackson says she alerted management about Wentworth’s actions and was met with a variety of suggestions. For example, the suit says, multiple managers told Jackson to just ignore Wentworth. Danielle Porter, Jackson’s direct supervisor, told her to keep notes on how she was being treated, the lawsuit states. Porter allegedly told Jackson to file her notes and said she would speak with other branch leadership about Wentworth’s behavior. Ultimately, however, Porter claimed they were unable to do anything because they couldn’t “prove” Wentworth’s offensive behavior, the lawsuit says.
It wasn’t until Feb. 2019 when Wentworth was suspended for assaulting and threatening a white male co-worker that Jackson says she noticed she wasn’t getting the same support from management.
After Wentworth returned to work from the suspension, he allegedly continued to taunt Jackson, the suit says. This time, Jackson says she notified airport security and an investigation was launched, resulting in Wentworth being charged with felony and misdemeanor offenses.
While Jackson doesn’t detail that incident in her suit, The Platte County Citizen reported at the time that Wentworth was arrested after taunting a woman in the USPS women’s restroom in Jan. 2019. The woman was not named in the article, but it cited court documents that said the woman told airport police she was afraid Wentworth was going to stab or rape her after he rushed her with a knife. Wentworth only left the area when someone else approached, the report notes.
The woman took a leave of absence from work and filed an order of protection against Wentworth in March. Platte County Circuit Court records show Wentworth pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon in April 2021 and was sentenced to 90 days house arrest and five years probation. A protection order was also granted, preventing him from abusing, stalking, molesting, or communicating with the protectee.
Attorney Mark Ferguson, who represented Wentworth in the 2019 case, did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment by publication Tuesday.
During the criminal investigation, Jackson says she found out that none of her reports about being racially and sexually targeted were ever filed with management.
“U.S.P.S. management led Jackson to believe that [United States Postal Inspection Service] had been notified and that her complaints of harassment and assault [were] being actively investigated,” the lawsuit says. “By their conduct, the U.S.P.S. management condoned Wentworth’s harassment, which itself is a form of harassment as they went to great lengths to deceive [Jackson] to protect Wentworth.”
The lawsuit claims USPS violated its policies on preventing unlawful discrimination and “failed to make good faith efforts” to enforce those policies by not reporting Wentworth’s actions, allowing Wentworth to stay at the branch, accepting bullying in the workplace, and “intentionally subject[ing] Jackson to a hostile work environment because of her race and sex.”
Jackson says that she has PTSD from the ordeal and had to request the protection order against Wentworth. She alleges she experienced “race and gender discrimination, [a] hostile work environment, and retaliation,” and, in exchange, she wants economic, compensatory, and punitive damages for the violation of her Title VII civil rights, which protects workers from being discriminated against based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
USPS did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment Tuesday on the allegations contained in the lawsuit.