WINFIELD – A former employee says Rudd Equipment Company, Inc., terminated his employment because of his race.
Mark Friend, a service manager at Rudd, was also named as a defendant in the suit.
Robert Latta began his employment with Rudd in September 2004 as a temporary employee, and was hired as a permanent employee in June 2005, according to a complaint filed Nov. 5 in Putnam Circuit Court.
Latta claims during his employment he performed his duties in a satisfactory, even exemplary, manner, and received good performance evaluations, raises and promotions.
Early on in Latta’s employment, Friend made offensive, racial comments to him, which he complained about to upper management and the Human Resources department, according to the suit.
Latta claims in 2011, he was informed that Friend had been referring to him by an offensive racial epithet to other employees and would not allow Latta to go into the field to perform repairs on equipment at coal mines because “they don’t like blacks at the coal mines.”
When Latta reported the conduct to Human Resources, nothing was done and Human Resources confirmed that he should not work in the field “due to the alleged prevalent racism at the coal mines,” according to the suit.
Latta claims he was also denied training that other white employees received.
During his employment, Latta suffered several work-related injuries and due to an injury he suffered on May 24, 2011, he was diagnosed with lumbosacral strain, bilateral sacroiliac and lumbago, according to the suit.
Latta claims a few days after the injury, he was released to return to work on light duty, but was told there were no light duty positions, even though other, white employees had been given such light duty accommodations.
After the May 2011 injury, Latta missed work intermittently for medical treatment related to his workers’ compensation claim, and was told in July 2011, was told he could not miss any more days of with that year, according to the suit, and did not miss any more days of work that year.
Latta claims in October 2011 he began suffering from tingling and numbness in his hands and fingers, pain in his arms and neck pain, and in November 2011, his physician diagnosed him with cervicalgia and bulging discs in his cervical spine.
On Jan. 12, Latta’s physician took him off work for seven days, due to severe neck pain associated with his cervical bulging discs, and on Jan. 23, he returned to work, according to the suit, however, after using a personal day on Jan. 27, he was fired on Jan. 30 at the end of his shift, allegedly for absenteeism.
Latta claims his discharge was discriminatory based upon his race, disability status and filing of workers’ compensation claims.
The defendants’ actions were willful, wanton and/or carried out with reckless disregard for Latta’s rights, according to the suit, and caused him to suffer lost wages and benefits; out-of-pocket losses; emotional and mental distress; humiliation; anxiety; apprehension; embarrassment; depression; aggravation; annoyance and inconvenience; and loss of capacity to enjoy life.
Latta is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. He is being represented by Kristina Thomas Whiteaker and David L. Grubb.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge J. Robert Leslie.
Putnam Circuit Court case number: 12-C-345