Black custodians cry foul in suit against MD College

admin | 2/1/2012, 7:40 a.m.

Was friction between them and Hispanics fuel for discrimination? Four Black custodians, all formerly employed by Miami Dade College at the Kendall Campus, have filed a federal lawsuit against the College and claim that they were either fired, selectively laid off or forced to resign under dubious circumstances, only to be replaced by white Hispanic employees. Three of the four men, Shack Shedrick, 39, Jerome Mitchell, 48 and John Williams, 64, are not affiliated with any union and had been with the College from nine to almost 20 years. All of the men are from Miami. The fourth defendant, Milton Davis, was unavailable for comment. According to their attorney, Dale Morgado, the case is still in its early stages and he is now waiting for the court to rule on certification which the defendant has moved to oppose. If the court rules in the plaintiffs behalf, other custodians could join in and become part of a class action lawsuit against the college. Having their say I worked the third shift and we had inadequate ventilation so I asked for the proper equipment and they retaliated, said Shedrick, a 17-year employee with the College. I began to receive negative comments on my employee evaluations, and reprimands three within a six-month period. My face broke out from being exposed to chemicals, I believe, and I had to seek medical treatment. Black employees were getting the dirty jobs not the Hispanic workers. Human resources was not helpful even though they are supposed to be and it seemed like Blacks were getting treated unfairly by many of our Hispanic supervisors. I was eventually forced to resign but it was not voluntary and since then I have suffered various stages of depression. Mitchell worked for the College for nine years before being laid off, he says, due to budget reasons. He has since found other employment. I was given the Made Excellent Award in 2004 and 2005 which means I didnt miss one day of work, he said. But things began to change at the College in late 2005. There were several other Hispanic female workers who had just been hired but none of them were laid off. I was. Williams was with the College for close to 20 years. He says his case is different as he had been hospitalized due to heart problems and had surgery to implant a pacemaker. I wanted to go back to work and my doctor approved my problem with some stipulations on how much I could lift on the job, he said. After one day back, I was fired. I heard there was another employee, a Cuban, who had a similar problem with his health but was allowed to stay. I dont know for sure. I was given the option of resigning and then seeking to be rehired after 30 days. But I had been there for over 19 years I wasnt willing to do that. The case continues Dr. Joy Ruff, director of Equal Opportunity Programs and Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for Miami Dade College, in response said, I cannot comment on active or ongoing litigation, but I can say that the College maintains and promotes adherence to fair and equitable employment practices. We extend opportunities for all employees to be heard regarding their concerns. Ruff admits that cases citing discrimination have been filed in the past by current or former employees of Miami Dade College but was unable to provide the exact number of cases. We have a no-tolerance policy on discrimination and our managers are trained to escalate any complaints from employees or students to the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs or to the dean of students. By D. Kevin McNeir kmcneir@miamitimesonline.com