This story was originally reported by Emilie Shumway in HR Dive.
For those engaged in DEI work, a major focus is ensuring that public proclamations translate into meaningful progress behind the scenes. Holder said her client's claim is an example of a failure to take such work seriously.
"What I'm determined to show is that now this creates another layer of liability beyond just discrimination," Holder told HR Dive via phone on Tuesday. "These companies are engaging in negligent conduct … they are claiming to be something that they aren't."
According to the complaint, the employee received recognition for good work before her dismissal, including a Manager of the Year award and several excellent performance reviews. She was 1 of 6 Black employees selected from among the company's approximately 50,000 workers to participate in the McKinsey Black Leadership Academy Management Accelerator Program, the complaint noted.
She was also "paraded around" as a face of diversity, Holder said. She was asked by Republic to write a letter in defense of the company when a Teamster chapter vice president referred to it as a "plantation owner." Republic displayed the letter throughout the workplace, the complaint said.
Despite these accolades, and assurances she would be promoted, the worker was passed over for a less qualified, White, male employee, the complaint alleged. It cited two examples of other female workers of color who also were passed over for "less-qualified males." The employee also complained of racist language in the workplace, including a co-worker referring to Black drivers as "dem boys," among other racially motived comments.
In lodging complaints, the employee followed the procedures that had been laid out in a flow chart, Holder said, and "did everything she was supposed to do." She used the employer's "AWARE line," Holder added, which Republic describes as a toll-free employee hotline that "is available for all employees to raise concerns if they are uncomfortable speaking directly with their supervisors or any other member of management or wish to remain anonymous."
"They investigated her instead of her complaints," Holder said. The employee was terminated approximately one month later for what Republic cited as "irreconcilable differences."
While Holder and her client are waiting for the EEOC to investigate, they intend to follow through on the case if the agency declines to pick it up. "We will be filing suit," Holder said. "We're not relying on the EEOC."
If you have information about Republic Services, please contact Tamara Holder at email@example.com or 312-818-3850.