West Virginia Record

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Man sues WVU claiming racial discrimination

By Kyla Asbury | Nov 14, 2012

MORGANTOWN -- A former employee is suing West Virginia University after he claims he was discriminated against because of his race.

West Virginia University Board of Governors and Mountaineer Temps were also named as defendants in the suit.

On Oct. 2, 2010, David Robertson began his employment by WVU through Mountaineer Temps, a division of WVU Human Resources as a clean-up detain worker on various university construction projects, according to a complaint filed Oct. 29 in Monongalia Circuit Court.

Robertson claims after approximately three months of diligent work he was asked to join the construction crew in January 2011.

Almost immediately after joining the construction crew, Andy Simpson, a WVU employee and Robertson’s supervisor, began singling Robertson out for humiliating racial harassment and disparagement in the presence of other workers, according to the suit.

Robertson claims he tried his hardest to ignore the abuse because he loved his job and was afraid that if he made vocal objections to the abuse, he might lose his job.

What began as innuendo, implication and overtone soon degenerated into outright racial assaults, according to the suit, and the statements Simpson made were done so in the presence of other WVU employees, including those in supervisory or managerial capacities.

Robertson claims he was in fear for his life and safety and did not know what to do or where to turn.

Unknown to Robertson, some of his white co-workers were disgusted and outraged by Simpson’s misconduct and reported the conduct to WVU’s administration, according to the suit, and after an investigation of the Office of Social Justice, WVU terminated Simpson, however, WVU did not adequately act to prevent subsequent adverse consequences or a “chilling effect” among his co-workers from befalling Robertson.

Robertson claims shortly after the racial harassment came to light and action was taken against his antagonist, he was made to sit by himself at a table at which the morning gatherings were held, while all the white employees sat on the other side of the table.

During an ensuing meeting regarding the racial abuse that Robertson had suffered, a supervisor informed him that the white workers no longer wanted to work with him and that his complaint had created a conflict of interest, according to the suit.

Robertson claims he began to feel like an outcast based upon his race and his work environment was intolerably hostile and malevolent.

At one point, a supervisor advised Robertson to seek other employment “lest some terrible event should befall him” and he reluctantly followed the supervisor’s instructions and went home to avoid being injured or killed, according to the suit, meaning he had been constructively terminated.

Robertson claims no one from WVU followed up with him to ascertain whether his involuntary departure had been coerced, insisted upon or encouraged by WVU staff.

The defendants’ actions caused Robertson damages; loss of income and benefits; and mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, anxiety and other adverse mental and emotional effects, according to the suit.

Robertson is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. He is being represented by David Grunau.

Monongalia Circuit Court case number: 12-C-752

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