CHARLESTON - A Kanawha County man who claims he was mistreated because of his race has filed a suit against his former employer, seeking punitive and compensatory damages.

Bryan Smith filed a suit July 19 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Union Public Service District, claiming they violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act by allegedly making him do menial tasks because of his race.

Two employees of Union Public Service District -- Earl Burks and William Carter -- are also named as defendants.

Smith, who is black, claims he was discriminated against because of his race and fired because he filed for workers' compensation after he injured his knee on the job.

Smith was hired Aug. 15, 2004, as a Wastewater Treatment Operator. He was the only black employee. During his employment, he claims he was subjected to numerous racial comments by contractors and outside vendors.

He claims he told the individuals he would not tolerate the racial remarks being made in his presence, but no action was taken "to eliminate the racially charged working environment," the suit says.

Smith claims he was required to perform manual labor, such as mowing the grass and painting, while the white employees who were hired to perform those tasks did not have to work.

"On more than one occasion, while (Smith) was performing these tasks of manual labor, (he) witnessed the less qualified Caucasian co-employees who were hired as laborers inside playing cards," the suit says.

While mowing the grass April 25, 2005, Smith stepped in a hole and tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

According to the suit, Smith could not work because he would not put weight on his knee. He was awarded workers' compensation. On the day he returned to work, he was fired.

The company claims he was fired because he failed to obtain his Class 1 Wastewater Operator's License. However, Smith claims he still had time to obtain the license before his first year of employment was completed.

Smith claims he was discriminated against because of his race, was fired because he claimed workers' compensation and was victim to a hostile work environment.

He seeks back pay and front pay, including benefits, compensatory damages for emotional and mental distress, humiliation, anxiety, embarrassment, depression, aggravation, annoyance and inconvenience. He also seeks punitive damages.

Attorney Mark L. French represents Smith. The case has been assigned to Judge Paul Zakaib.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-1492

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