Human management

Former Waste Management employee files racism complaint


A former Waste Management employee in Topeka filed a racial discrimination complaint last year, alleging he was harassed while employed by the company.

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A former employee of Waste Management in Kansas who claims he was racially harassed, including while working for a supervisor who posted racist videos, has filed a lawsuit against the company.

Robert Smith, senior heavy equipment operator for the company’s Topeka site, worked for the company for more than 13 years.

Smith, who is black, filed a federal lawsuit on Nov. 5, 2021, less than six months after he was fired, following a series of incidents he says caused emotional distress.

During the 2020 presidential election, a racist note was stuck on his locker at work.

The document read: “Give a black man a fish and he will eat for a day. Give a black man a free cell phone, food stamps, Section 8 housing, a six-pack of beer, and he’ll vote Democrat for the rest of his life,” the lawsuit said.

Co-workers and supervisors called Smith obscenities, played racist videos while he was around and addressed him in a mocking manner, according to the lawsuit.

He filed a complaint with the local human resources department. But according to the lawsuit, the department did not investigate the complaints.

In addition to filing complaints, he informed his local supervisor of the incidents. The supervisor, however, allegedly told Smith “to stop nitpicking,” according to the lawsuit.

Smith claims he was fired after he and another colleague, who is white, were involved in an accident with a compactor. According to court records, Smith and the other employee found no damage to the operating equipment and continued to work. They did not file an incident report.

After an investigation, his supervisor and regional supervisor fired him, but not his colleague, according to the lawsuit.

In a response to the lawsuit that was filed Dec. 14, attorneys for Waste Management denied the discrimination as well as the incidents described in the lawsuit. The company denied that Smith’s colleague failed to report the accident and said Smith was fired because he failed to report the accident and tried to cover it up.

Smith seeks at least $100,000 in damages and a jury trial in Kansas City, Kansas.

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Aarón Torres is a breaking news reporter who also covers race and equity issues. He is bilingual, Spanish being his first language.