Black man claims discrimination at W. Va. Steel

By John O'Brien | Jun 14, 2006

CHARLESTON - A former worker at West Virginia Steel is suing the corporation and its supervisors, claiming he was ridiculed because of his race while employed there.

James Thomas filed the lawsuit June 5 in Kanawha Circuit Court. His wife Billie Jo is also listed as a plaintiff.

Thomas says he was the lone black man working at the Poca-based company from July to September 2005 and was forced to quit because of the treatment he received.

"James Thomas' work environment at West Virginia Steel Corp. was one saturated with racist slurs, taunts, remarks, veiled threats and assaults as well as racist motifs being prominently placed around the workplace," the complaint says.

Thomas claims his supervisor knew of the behavior and did nothing to prevent it. He charges the defendants with violating the West Virginia Human Rights Act, outrage, hostile work environment, constructive discharge and negligence. Billie Jo, who was pregnant at the time, charges them with a loss of consortium.

"As a direct and proximate result of the harassment suffered by her husband, the plaintiff Billie Jo Thomas was deprived of his services and consortium," the complaint says.

Michael D. Payne of Payne and Muldoon in Charleston is representing the plaintiffs, who are seeking compensatory, liquidated and punitive damages.

Judge Irene Berger has been assigned the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-1070

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