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