A former employee of a Columbus non-profit has filed a civil suit in federal court alleging her former employers did nothing after she made numerous reports of racist conduct by a supervisor.
According to the complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi in Aberdeen, the plaintiff is listed as Andrea Cureton, an African-American woman, with the defendant named as the Columbus-Lowndes Habitat for Humanity, Inc.
Jackson-based law firm Watson & Norris was listed as Cureton’s legal counsel.
Cureton, who was hired as a volunteer coordinator in November 2015, claims store manager Abby Davis, a white female, referred to her as a “shy monkey” and showed no remorse after being confronted by another employee in the presence of Cureton.
The complaint says Cureton — who has no history of reprimands — immediately notified the organization’s Executive Director Kathy Arinder, who said “You’ve got Abby wrong, and if you are going to be like that then let’s just be professional and keep it at that.”
About a month later, Cureton claims Davis stated “I just hate to see black guys in Kroger looking at me like they want to steal my purse.”
After the statement was said in front of Cureton, she again claims to have confronted Davis and then reported it to Arinder, to which the executive director responded that she would discuss the matter with Davis.
Another incident includes claims of a mixed-race couple entering the store in 2017 to donate some books. Cureton said Davis told her that “I’m sorry but that’s just not right. (The white woman) was talking all ghetto.”
This incident was also allegedly reported to Arinder. Further accusations claim two disabled siblings were allowed to come into the store to volunteer but Davis informed Cureton “never to invite them back because they were a liability to the organization.”
Cureton said the incident involving the two disabled siblings made her feel uneasy because she felt Davis was pressuring her to be complicit with disability discrimination.
The complaint goes on to list other accusations against Davis, including her referring to her childhood nanny as a “big black woman” and “stinky,” along with regularly complaining in the open that “black men did not know how to fill out applications.”
Cureton claims she reported every incident to Arinder, who would “always” say she would speak to Davis, but would also defend her and dispute the notion that she was racist.
The situation seems to have come to a boiling point when Davis accused Cureton of stealing from the store — an accusation Cureton took offense to and reported to Arinder.
However, the next day Cureton was accused of stealing once again.
The complaint states the tension escalated to a point where both Davis and Arinder yelled at Cureton, who expressed frustration at the situation.
Fearing she would be terminated from her job, Cureton resigned on Feb. 22.
In the wake of her resignation, Cureton said Arinder offered to discuss the situation more, after saying she spoke with the company’s board about the situation and offered Cureton a check for $877, which she refused.
Court documents say Cureton then met with the board and told them what she had experienced. The board president responded to her by apologizing and explaining that the organization did not have a policy in place regarding racial harassment or discrimination.
Cureton requested the court grant the following terms: Back wages and reinstatement or future wages in lieu of reinstatement; compensatory damages; punitive damages; attorney’s fees; and other costs and expenses.
Attempts to contact Columbus-Lowndes Habitat for Humanity for comment were not returned by press time on Wednesday.