Former custodian sues Kanawha school board for racial abuse

By Cara Bailey | Dec 10, 2008

CHARLESTON - A Kanawha County man has filed a suit against the Kanawha County Board of Education, claiming he was racially abused after he was hired as a custodian.

Willis McLemore filed the suit Oct. 22 in Kanawha Circuit Court against the Kanawha County Board of Education and Kanawha County Schools, as well as school employees Clinton Giles and Frank Thompson.

According to the suit, McLemore claims he was discriminated against because of his race. He is African American.

McLemore interviewed for a custodial job for a position at Capitol High School in January 2007. According to the suit, Giles and Thompson told McLemore they did not want him working at Capitol and were holding the position for another employee.

However, McLemore was offered the job. And despite being told he was not wanted, he accepted the position because of his financial situation.

Upon starting work at the school, co-worker Larry Pennington showed McLemore around and assigned him to a particular area. According to the suit, Thompson then approached McLemore and told him the area to which he had been assigned was a "mess" and hadn't been cleaned in months, and would take some time to clean.

According to the suit, McLemore began to receive letters a few days after he started, informing him that certain tasks were not being completed even though Thompson had acknowledged that it would take some time to complete them.

McLemore continued to work and began to bond with other custodians. He claims he received several compliments about the cleanliness of his area from teachers and even Giles, who also is black.

However, according to the suit, Thompson continued "his constant barrage of attacks" of McLemore's performance. He also made racially motivated slurs toward McLemore.

At one point, Thompson told McLemore, "Why don't you just quit, I'm tired of us having to carry your load. People of your kind are so lazy, always having something given to you," the suit says.

Thompson's actions continued until April 10, 2008, when McLemore was no longer able to tolerate his conduct and resigned.

McLemore filed a grievance concerning the hostile working conditions he was forced to endure at Capitol High School, but the grievance was denied. McLemore then filed an appeal but the appeal was never scheduled.

According to the suit, McLemore suffered severe emotional and mental distress, humiliation, anxiety, embarrassment, depression, aggravation, annoyance and inconvenience.

In the eight-count suit, McLemore seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Attorney Matthew S. Criswell is representing McLemore. The case has been assigned to Judge Paul Zakaib.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 08-C-2064

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