Goodwill manager called black workers ‘unprofessional’ and ‘you people,’ NC suit says
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (McClatchy) - A former Goodwill employee in North Carolina said her manager repeatedly addressed black employees as “you people” and told them they were “too loud.”
She complained and was later fired — now she’s suing.
Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont racially discriminated and unlawfully retaliated against Angela Hamilton when they fired her in April 2019 following concerns about her manager’s behavior, according to a federal lawsuit.
“(Her manager) did not like that Hamilton, as an African American woman, questioned his authority, and therefore, (he) made efforts to build a disciplinary record against Hamilton, so that he could either keep Hamilton quiet, or to terminate Hamilton,” the complaint states.
Goodwill has denied the allegations, court documents show.
Attorneys for both parties and a representative for Goodwill did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.
Hamilton first filed suit in July 2019 without legal representation, court documents show. She later retained an attorney, who filed an amended complaint Feb. 18.
According to the lawsuit, Hamilton was hired at a Charlotte-area Goodwill as a hanger in January 2018. Eleven months later, Yongwoo “John” Park was hired as the new store manager.
Before Park, she had no disciplinary record and was one of the store’s “fastest hangers,” the complaint states.
An attorney for Hamilton said in the lawsuit that a disagreement between the two started when Park changed her days off, after which Hamilton said she “heard Park make racially-offensive comments about her and her African-American co-workers.”
“For instance, during a team meeting, Park referred to Hamilton and her African-American co-workers as ‘you people,’ and asked whether ‘you people say certain slang words,’” the complaint states.
He also called them “you people” when telling them they were being “too loud” in the break room, according to the lawsuit.
Hamilton told him it was racially offensive, but he did not apologize, her attorney said in the complaint.
Instead, Park gave her a job performance warning, saying she failed to meet her daily goal for the number of garments hung per shift, the lawsuit states. He reportedly called her into a meeting with a district manager to deliver the news.
“Park asked (the manager) to be present because Park believed, based upon stereotypes about African-American women, that Hamilton would become hostile and aggressive during the meeting,” according to the complaint.
He also told her to be more professional and suggested she leave the person she is at home “outside of work,” her attorney said in the complaint.
“Hamilton responded to Park, asking whether he was relying on stereotypes about African-American women in the workplace by calling her unprofessional,” the lawsuit states. He reportedly laughed in response.
Around the same time, the complaint states a white co-worker who also failed to meet her daily goals was not given any warning.
Hamilton was later put on probation for excessive tardiness — most of which she said occurred before the formal warning — and given an unreasonably high hanging goal, according to the lawsuit.
Shortly after she expressed concern for her job security and threatened to go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Hamilton’s attorney said she was fired.
According to the complaint, Hamilton was told she “failed to improve her overall work performance,” “had a ‘poor attitude,’” and “violated Goodwill SP’s loss prevention policy, by not having her personal belongings checked before leaving the store at the end of her shift.”
She was reportedly replaced with someone who is not black.
The complaint makes claims for violations of the Civil Rights Act, racial discrimination, retaliation and wrongful discharge. Hamilton is seeking back pay and lost benefits, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.