For­mer Health CARE Ex­press C.O.O. files suit against owner, al­leges wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion, dis­crim­i­na­tion, re­tal­i­a­tion

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn LaRowe

TEXARKANA, Texas — A law­suit filed Thurs­day by a for­mer Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer for Health­CARE Ex­press ac­cuses the owner of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion and re­tal­i­a­tion.

Sa­muel Mitchell, an African Amer­i­can, al­leges Dr. Tim­o­thy Reynolds sub­jected him re­peat­edly to racially of­fen­sive com­ments and that he was fired af­ter com­plain­ing to the hu­man re­sources man­ager. Ohio lawyer Chris Wido filed suit in the Texarkana Divi­sion of the East­ern District of Texas on Mitchell’s be­half against Health­CARE Ex­press and Reynolds.

Nei­ther Health­CARE Ex­press nor Reynolds re­sponded to a re­quest for com­ment Fri­day.

“This case is not just my client’s word ver­sus Mr. Reynolds,” Wido said. “There are nu­mer­ous wit­nesses to the de­scribed con­duct and to other racist re­marks made by Reynolds to and about other African Amer­i­can em­ploy­ees at Health­CARE Ex­press.”

Mitchell was hired by the com­pany in late-July 2018. Within a few months of his hir­ing, Mitchell al­leges Reynolds be­gan mak­ing com­ments about Mitchell’s sex­ual prow­ess while per­pet­u­at­ing a racist stereo­type about the size of African Amer­i­can men’s gen­i­talia, the com­plaint al­leges.

“On sev­eral oc­ca­sions, Reynolds ‘thanked’ Mitchell for be­ing the ‘ex­cep­tion’ to Reynolds’ stated be­lief that ‘most blacks’ were ig­no­rant and/or il­lit­er­ate,” the com­plaint states. “Reynolds reg­u­larly re­ferred to Mitchell’s race when talk­ing to Health­CARE Ex­press em­ploy­ees and would fre­quently make Mitchell’s race the butt of his jokes.”

Mitchell’s com­plaint al­leges that he asked Reynolds to re­frain from mak­ing racially-charged com­ments but his

re­quests were dis­missed.

Mitchell al­leges he made a for­mal racial ha­rass­ment com­plaint to Health­CARE Ex­press Di­rec­tor of Hu­man Re­sources Theresa Hugg but she brushed off his griev­ance and said, “Tim is just be­ing Tim.” Mitchell al­leges Hugg vi­o­lated the busi­ness’ own pol­icy by fail­ing to in­ves­ti­gate the com­plaint.

The com­plaint al­leges Reynolds con­tin­ued to make racially and sex­u­ally charged com­ments to Mitchell af­ter he filed the com­plaint.

Mitchell also al­leges that Reynolds and two other doc­tors associated with Health­CARE Ex­press told him in Fe­bru­ary 2019 that, “all white peo­ple in Texarkana carry guns … it would be wise for you to be armed.”

Mitchell al­leges he was of­fended and felt threat­ened by the gun com­ments.

Mitchell al­leges he made a sec­ond com­plaint to Hugg in March 2019 and showed her some of the of­fen­sive text mes­sages al­legedly sent to him by Reynolds.

Hugg re­fused to take any ac­tion, the com­plaint states.

Mitchell al­leges he was “sud­denly ter­mi­nated” by Reynolds about a week af­ter he made the sec­ond com­plaint and that Reynolds told

Mitchell he was “not a good fit for our cul­ture.” Mitchell says he re­ceived noth­ing but praise for his work prior to be­ing fired.

Mitchell al­leges that af­ter send­ing Reynolds an email in April 2019 in which he ad­dressed “racism and big­otry” at Health­CARE Ex­press, he re­ceived a let­ter from lawyers rep­re­sent­ing Reynolds and the busi­ness that threat­ened to take le­gal ac­tion against him.

Mitchell claims Health­CARE Ex­press vi­o­lated fed­eral law pro­hibit­ing a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment based on race, vi­o­lated fed­eral law pro­hibit­ing racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, that he was wrong­fully ter­mi­nated in re­tal­i­a­tion for his com­plaints and that he was sub­jected to post-em­ploy­ment re­tal­i­a­tion as well.

Mitchell is seek­ing a judg­ment declar­ing that the de­fen­dants vi­o­lated fed­eral law and an in­junc­tion pre­vent­ing them from en­gag­ing them in such con­duct in the fu­ture. Mitchell wants the court to di­rect the de­fen­dants to re­in­state him and make sure such al­leged dis­crim­i­na­tion doesn’t hap­pen again. Mitchell is ask­ing for eco­nomic dam­ages, com­pen­satory dam­ages, dam­ages for men­tal an­guish and emo­tional dis­tress, dam­ages for harm to his pro­fes­sional and per­sonal rep­u­ta­tions, puni­tive dam­ages and for the costs of bring­ing the law­suit.

The case is as­signed to U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III.

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