Image Source: Mike Mozart – Jeepers Media
The lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleges that Walmart through its HR department failed to prevent a hostile work environment in which an employee faced “racism through ridicule.”
The woman who filed the complaint says management engaged in a racially-hostile conspiracy against her, ultimately forcing her to resign.
When Lauretta R. King was transferred by Walmart from Anchorage, Alaska to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania she was surprised to find that she was the only Black woman working as an HR manager in that location.
She says all her other fellow manages were white, according to the complaint. About three weeks into her time in Bethlehem, she says she began facing racism through ridicule. This included her coworkers standing behind her and making “overt and unwelcome gestures” in order to make other managers laugh.
“[The managers] would single [King] out and would enjoy antagonizing [her] together. [One manager] would often call [King] into her office without reason, where … other managers would await and burst into laughter once [King] arrived,” the complaint states. King says the ridicule lasted several months.
King eventually took her complaints to the higher ups within the human resources department, but says this only made matters worse.
“After their investigation was completed, [the managers] called [King] into a meeting to notify her that there was no validity to her claims of being the object of ridicule … in the workplace,” the complaint states.
According to the complaint, the ridicule and discrimination increased, with King being given what she calls “overwhelming amounts of information” to learn. Eventually she says she was falsely accused of misfiling paperwork multiple times.
King attempted to secure a transfer, but was only offered one that would require a demotion and pay cut, according to the complaint.
She then had to take time off to recuperate from a neck injury, and says she refused to go back to work given the hostile work environment, and resigned her position. Since then, King says at least two of the managers involved in the ordeal have since been demoted and removed from the Bethlehem office, according to the complaint.
She now sues her former employer on two counts, one of racial discrimination and one violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. She is represented by attorneys Matthew Weisberg and Gary Schafkopf. Judge Joseph A. Leeson is presiding.
Walmart’s corporate headquarters did not return a message requesting comment.