The EEOC filed this lawsuit in Washington Western District Federal Court. Shortly thereafter Robert Sanders filed as Plaintiff Intervenor. In October, Big 5 Counsel were replaced as noted herein below.
The EEOC alleges that they referred to a black male management trainee and long-term Whidbey Island resident as "spook" "boy" and "king kong." From the press release:
Robert Sanders was the only African-American employee at Big 5's location on Whidbey Island. According to the EEOC's investigation, the store manager and various assistant managers called Sanders "spook," "boy" and "King Kong" and told him that he had the "face of a janitor."
The agency found that even though Sanders repeatedly reported this conduct to upper management, the company failed to act and Sanders instead faced escalated harassment as well as retaliation in the form of increased workloads, denial of breaks, and unwarranted discipline. After he was forced to take several leaves due to stress, one assistant manager told Sanders, "We will hang you, we will seriously lynch you if you call in again this week."
Another assistant manager asked Sanders if he was "ready to commit suicide," offering "assistance" when he was ready to do so.
"I came prepared to work hard and put in my dues to become a manager," Sanders said. "But I was met with comments about my race: 'You're the perfect definition of 'spook' because your skin is so dark, but your teeth are so white.' And it went downhill from there, to being taunted by another manager trainee about 'ending up in a river, dead.' Whidbey Island is a small place, and I didn't want to leave my house. I felt like Big 5 took away my ability to not just succeed at work, but to simply live my life with dignity and without fear."October Update: Seattle Attorney Megan Starich has substituted in as lead Defense Counsel.
Attorney Scott G. Thomas has filed an Intervenor Complaint on behalf of Plaintiff Robert Sanders.