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Postal Service goes for win in white man’s hostile work environment case

September 20, 2022


ST. LOUIS (Legal Newsline) – The U.S. Postal Service is hoping to defeat a lawsuit brought by a white employee who sued over his Black co-workers’ use of the “N” word.

Regan Hildebrand, an assistant U.S. Attorney in St. Louis, filed a motion for summary judgment Sept. 6 in plaintiff Lyle Herrington’s lawsuit, which was filed last year. Herrington alleges a hostile work environment at the Postal Service’s Creve Coeur, Mo., branch.

The Postal Service says Herrington’s complaint adds new allegations not disclosed in his required pre-litigation complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

He failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, the Postal Service says, on all claims except retaliation, and that claim should fail because he can’t show a causal nexus between a February 2019 complaint about a supervisor and discipline he faced five months later for taking a picture of a co-worker.

“Mr. Herrington filed four EEO Contact Summaries between August 7, 2019 and August 14, 2019,” the motion for summary judgment says.

“None of these EEO Contact Summaries, however, said anything about a hostile work environment, disparate treatment on account of race, that (Melvin) Beck engaged in racebased retaliation in February 2019, that Mr. Herrington was repeatedly subjected to the N-word, that he was wrongfully accused of trying to rundown (Kiesha) Wiley, that Ms. (Nikki) Johnson accused him on unbecoming conduct after a road rage incident and that Mr. Herrington was called the Ku Klux Klan.”

Herrington complained to the EEOC about Beck in Feburary 2019, after a Black coworker had complained she was being worked like a slave, “or something to that effect,” the complaint says.

Herrington said she was being treated more like an indentured servant. Beck “subjected Herrington to a barrage of comments” and told him to stay away from Harris, the suit says. Herrington then filed his gripe with the EEOC.

Five months later, Beck issued a Letter of Warning to Herrington because he took a picture of Lawanda Johnson.

Herrington said Johnson had also taken a picture of him, but she wasn’t subjected to discipline like he was. His complaint says the hostile work environment took many other forms, like the instances mentioned by the Postal Service in its motion.

But all these claims weren’t mentioned in his August 2019 complaints with the EEOC, the suit says, as is required.

The remaining claim for retaliation should be dismissed because the Postal Service’s disciplinary process to which Herrington was subjected is not an adverse employment action, the motion says.

“Mr. Herrington admits that he suffered no material harm from the (process),” the motion says, and Mr. Beck admits that he did not suspend Mr. Herrington, did not reduce his pay, did not do anything to his benefits, did not prevent him from serving as a shop steward and did not do anything that affected Mr. Herrington’s work hours, his tour of duty or his position…”

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