Boone man says he was victim of racial discrimination

CHARLESTON - A Boone County man has filed a suit against his former employer, claiming he was discriminated against and fired because he is black.

Ray Saunders, through attorney Roger D. Forman, originally filed the suit Sept. 13 in Kanawha Circuit Court, against Champ Sports, Inc. An amended complaint was filed Sept. 18.

Charles Mechum, the manager of the Charleston store, and William Miller, the district manager, are also named as defendants.

Saunders was employed for Champ Sports from August 1998 until March 11, 2007, when he was fired.

He claims that during his time at the store, he was subjected to numerous racial comments and a hostile work environment.

"Charles Mechum harbored racial hostilities and prejudice towards Mr. Saunders and was permitted by Champs to take action against Mr. Saunders without consequence," the suit says.

Mechum allegedly verbally assaulted Saunders, and allowed other employees at the store to do so. Saunders claims Mechum called him "the whitest black guy ever," who was "always chasing white women."

Saunders claims he was routinely subjected to humiliating racist comments from his co-workers and manager, such as "black people come out at night," and "all West Virginian black men date white women."

Saunders claims Mechum was upset because Saunders was in an interracial relationship.

The suit also says Saunders was accused of lying and stealing because of his race, and kept from selling merchandise.

"Although Mr. Saunders was one of the best salespersons in his district, and he was paid on commission, his manager, Mr. Mechum, kept him off the sales floor and out of the public's view," the suit says.

According to the suit, Saunders and other black employees were denied advanced positions, and white applicants were given instant consideration. He also claims he was denied employee benefits and federal assistance.

Saunders is also diabetic, and claims he is disabled within the boundaries of the West Virginia Human Rights Act. He has damage to his feet from the combination of diabetes and excessive standing. He claims he was often not permitted to eat lunch, and was ridiculed for taking the time to eat and take medication.

According to the suit, Saunders took time of off work to have surgery on his feet. Saunders claims he requested time off in a timely manner, and then on a regular basis, and provided the manager with medical excuse slips.

However, he claims he was never given the opportunity to apply for financial aid, and was fired when he returned to work.

In the six-count suit, Saunders claims he was racially harassed and discriminated against, both because of his race and his illness. He also claims he was wrongfully fired. He seeks reinstatement with full back pay and front pay, damages for emotional distress, damages for humiliation, punitive damages and court costs.

The case has been assigned to Judge Louis Bloom.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-1936

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