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City utility board faces 10th discrimination lawsuit from employees

A utility board in Kansas City, Kansas, was hit with its 10th lawsuit alleging discrimination on Tuesday.
City utility board faces 10th discrimination lawsuit from employees
Posted at 7:32 PM, Jan 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-22 21:32:29-05

A Kansas utility worker has filed a lawsuit against his employer alleging it allowed him to face continuous racial discrimination and harassment, marking the 10th such lawsuit filed against the public body.

In his federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, Eric Lindsey says the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and its owner, Unified Government, have done nothing to stop the discrimination he said he's faced since being hired as a carpenter in 2012, despite repeated complaints.

In one instance, Lindsey, who is Black, said his coworker answered "yes, kind of" when another employee asked if the White man was racist. The same two coworkers, Lindsey alleges, have consistently acted to hinder his work, one time removing a breaker that prevented Lindsey from following instructions to open a garage door for ventilation purposes. 

Other times, the two White coworkers allegedly hid tools so that Lindsey couldn't use them to get his work done, or hid his BPU truck keys, forcing Lindsey to walk to multiple jobs while others have never had to do so.

Lindsey also accused the Kansas utility of requiring him to work many two-person jobs alone though his White employees always had partners, overly criticizing his quality of work, and failing to notify him he had been exposed to asbestos when removing a floor.

The carpenter says his repeated complaints filed with management and with human resources have either gone unanswered or been misdirected back to him instead of his alleged abusers. In the case of the specific two White coworkers' mistreatment, Lindsey said his supervisor and the plant's superintendent acknowledged they knew about the harassment and that they were trying to work through it, but it allegedly continued.

SEE MORE: Family sues school after their child was accused of wearing blackface

Since filing all of his complaints, Lindsey alleges BPU has retaliated against him by way of significantly changing his workload and further isolating him, namely only assigning him to work with the sole other Black employee in the department.

These allegations, the lawsuit states, amount to race discrimination, retaliation and a hostile work environment, and Lindsey is seeking damages in excess of $75,000 at a jury trial.

"But for his race, Plaintiff would not have experienced the discrimination, abuse and harassment described above," the lawsuit says. "The actions of Defendants Unified Government, BPU, and its employees have been willful, and in reckless disregard for the rights of Plaintiff."

The lawsuit, first reported by The Kansas City Star, marks one of several discrimination cases BPU is currently facing. 

Earlier this month, a Black woman sued BPU after allegedly being denied a job and overtime opportunities both given to White coworkers. 

Last year, an employee sued after a coworker called him a racial slur, another sued after a supervisor allegedly made "racist and sexist comments" and a third sued for disability discrimination, per The Star. Each plaintiff said they had faced retaliation after trying to work through the issues with higher-ups.

In 2022, five others sued Unified Government for racial discrimination and hostile work environments. 

A spokesman for BPU told The Star the utility can't comment on pending litigation.

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