A Black man is suing his two former employers, alleging he was fired from his Wilmington-based job as a truck driver for complaining about the illegal storage of hazardous materials as well as for protesting race discrimination, including being called the N-word by a trainer.
Billy Massey’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc. and Safety-Kleen of California Inc. alleges an array of causes of action, including wrongful termination, race discrimination and harassment, retaliation and various violations of the state Labor Code.
Massey seeks unspecified damages in the suit filed Friday. A Clean Harbors representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Massey was hired as a truck driver by the companies in August 2019 and began suffering racial harassment and discrimination soon thereafter, the suit alleges. The employee who trained him spent less than an hour with him, although others typically received several hours from the same trainer, according to his court papers.
The trainer tried to assault Massey, used a racial epithet and said he did not like Black people, using the same epithet, the suit alleges.
The plaintiff alleges his boss refused to shake hands with him and other Black employees at the job site where he worked. Massey and other Black drivers were frequently required to wait longer than non-Black drivers while picking up and dropping off trailers and were also often subjected to verbal abuse by the employee charged with directing traffic at the facility, the suit alleges.
Massey says he complained to management many times about the alleged racial mistreatment he experienced, but nothing was done. Massey’s direct supervisor said he was “well aware of the issues at the Wilmington facility, but there was nothing he could do to protect (Massey) from further harassment or discrimination,” the suit alleges.
In fact, the suit alleges, the individuals about whom Massey complained received promotions shortly after his most recent protests of discrimination.
Last July, Massey alleges he was instructed by a supervisor to move hazardous materials from one site to a second location, both in residential areas, pending completion of a government inspection at the first location.
Massey protested to his boss and to management about the company’s alleged illegal storage of hazardous materials and engaging in “illegal sleight of hand to evade government inspectors” because the hazardous materials could explode and potentially cause “the deaths of several people,” the suit says.
The plaintiff’s supervisor responded that the practice “had been ongoing for many years with no harm to any persons” and that the company “had evaded fines and penalties worth several millions of dollars,” according to the suit, which alleges Massey’s boss told him “not to concern himself with legal issues.”
Soon after he made his complaints, Massey alleges his boss began a “sustained campaign to harass” him.
Last September, the plaintiff says he accidentally drove over a small sign in a driveway at another firm, where a supervisor at that company joked that he wished Massey would have taken the sign with him when he left.
Massey’s bosses initially told him it was not a major problem because the sign should not have been there, but they cited the incident a few days later and fired him, according to his court papers.
The defendants’ alleged failure to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation against Massey hindered his ability to do his job and caused him to suffer severe emotional distress, including panic attacks, hair loss, sleep deprivation and headaches, all of which have required medical treatment, according to his lawsuit.