USPS employee says Kansas City co-worker used racial slurs, threatened her with knife

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A U.S. Postal Service employee in Kansas City says in a recently filed lawsuit that she endured years of racist threats and sexual harassment from a co-worker that effectively went unchecked by supervisors who were aware of the situation and did nothing.

Kimberly Jackson, an employee of the postal service since 1997, was repeatedly called a “Black b----” and a “lazy” N-word by a man she worked with in a USPS facility at Kansas City International Airport between 2016 and 2019, according to the lawsuit. That harassment later escalated to the man threatening her with a knife in a dark hallway for being a “snitch” when she told her bosses, the complaint says.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in the U.S. Court for the Western District of Missouri, naming as defendants Postmaster General Louis Dejoy and the USPS. A spokesman for the USPS in Kansas City declined to comment, saying the allegations were currently under investigation.

According to the lawsuit, Jackson began working at the KCI facility in late 2016 after transferring from another local post office. Shortly after arriving, she says, she was harassed by Michael Wentworth, a maintenance employee, in a manner that created a “pervasive hostile work environment,” the complaint says.

Beyond the racial slurs, Jackson alleges the man spread rumors about her around work, made her feel intimidated near the women’s bathroom, turned the lights off on purpose to leave her in dark spaces and was generally threatening and offensive.

When Jackson informed her boss, the complaint says she was first told to simply ignore him. Then, Jackson says, she was directed to document any type of harassment and submit written complaints.

After filing several reports detailing severe incidents, Jackson said she was told on multiple occasions that nothing could be done because managers could not prove the allegations. The intimidation and harassment from Wentworth grew more intense after she filed reports, the lawsuit says.

In January 2019, Jackson says Wentworth pulled a knife on her when the pair were in a dark hallway. The assault was reported to managers, the complaint says, but he was allegedly allowed to continue working there.

Two months later Jackson reported the knife incident to police at KCI and Wentworth was arrested. He was later charged and pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, and misdemeanor assault, Jackson County court records show.

During the criminal investigation, the complaint alleges that a police detective found none of the instances of harassment were reported to law enforcement, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The complaint says Jackson believed those issues were being reported and contends USPS violated its own policies related to employee supervision.

“By their conduct, the USPS management condoned Wentworth’s harassment, which itself is a form of harassment as they went to great lengths to deceive her to protect Wentworth,” the complaint says.

The complaint accuses USPS of violating the Civil Rights Act by allowing a sexually hostile workplace, a racially hostile workplace and retaliating against Jackson.