A Black former driver for a Santa Fe Springs janitorial supplies and equipment company is suing his ex-employer, alleging he was forced to quit in 2020 out of fear for his safety after his boss showed him a gun and on other occasions suggested he vote for Donald Trump and made disparaging comments about Black Lives Matter.
Michael Turner’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Brady Industries and General Manager Matt Huffman alleges constructive termination, racial discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment, discriminatory threats of violence based on race and political affiliation, interference with exercise of civil rights and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
A Brady Industries representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Turner’s suit, which was filed Tuesday and seeks at least $850,000 in damages.
Turner was hired in April 2017 and was the only Black employee at his workplace, according to his court papers. He alleges that last August, he arrived at work and encountered his boss, who showed him a gun and told Turner that his presence scared him.
“(Turner) was alarmed to learn that Huffman had a gun at the office,” the suit states. “In addition, plaintiff was uncomfortable knowing that the sight of an African-American man frightened Huffman.”
Huffman’s race is not identified in the suit.
He alleges that Huffman told him on another occasion, “If you don’t vote for Trump, I will fire you.” Though said in a jesting manner, Turner was disturbed by Huffman’s remark, the suit states.
On yet another occasion, Huffman told Turner that Black Lives Matter had a “bunch of (epithet)” and racist members, leading the plaintiff to believe that his supervisor’s message was that Turner’s life did not matter, according to his court papers.
“Plaintiff felt very intimidated and fearful because he knew that Huffman had the means to shoot him and could do so,” the suit states. “Plaintiff was also intimidated by Huffman’s unsolicited and unwanted political remark.”
The combination of the three incidents in a short period of time after Turner had worked under Huffman for more than three years caused him to fear going to work, so he called in sick on Oct. 19 and reported Huffman’s alleged conduct to Brady’s human resources director in Las Vegas, the suit states.
Turner says he was offered the choice of resigning, in which case there would be no investigation, or take an unpaid leave of absence while the company investigated.
Turner decided to take time off until the completion of the probe, which concluded that Huffman violated Brady’s anti-violence policy by having an unauthorized gun at work, made inappropriate comments to Turner about voting for Trump and about Black Lives Matter, the suit alleges.
The investigation further found that Huffman’s alleged threat was not a joke and indicated that no supervisor should make an employee’s political views affect another worker’s employment, according to the suit, which says Turner was told the weapon was removed and that Huffman would have to apologize, undergo supervisor training and receive “appropriate” disciplinary action.
Turner also was told the company would not tolerate any retaliation against him, the suit states. Nonetheless, fearing for his life and feeling the emotional distress from Huffman’s alleged actions, Turner says he opted to resign in October.
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