BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Willie Norman, a heavy equipment operator, has worked for the Volusia County Public Works Department in the Solid Waste Division for the past 11 years.
Norman, 42, a Black male, is now suing the county for discrimination and retaliation based on race. He says he has been passed over for promotion, faced racism and discrimination.
The lawsuit suit states that he faced retaliation and backlash after complaining about the lack of diversity, equal opportunity, lack of hiring for minorities and unfair treatment.
Norman is seeking lost wages and benefits, front pay, compensatory damages for mental and emotional distress and reasonable attorney fees, according to the lawsuit.
‘Pattern of discrimination’
Attorney Al Truesdale of Truesdale Law in DeLand is representing Norman. The suit was filed on Feb. 8.
“There is definitely a pattern of discrimination against my client in the Public Works division, which is clearly spelled out in my client’s claim. The complaint sets out how he has been subject to acts of discrimination based on his race going back several years,” Truesdale stated.
Seeking jury trial
The lawsuit states that Norman has complaints going back to 2008 in regards to racism, discrimination, unfair treatment and retaliation. It also states that Norman is requesting a trial by jury.
“I think if a jury looks at this objectively, they would see that my client hasn’t been treated the way that he should have based on his experience, background and credentials,” Truesdale told the Daytona Times.
Volusia County spokesperson Joanne Magley said that the county cannot respond to ongoing litigation.
Local civil rights organizations expressed concern about equal employment practices in county government.
“The NAACP believes that there are many problems in the county government as it relates to the treatment of minority employees as well as the lack of minority employees working in county government,” commented Cynthia Slater, president of the Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP.
West Volusia NAACP President Mike Williams added, “We get our fair share of complaints. We definitely are concerned about the minority contractors being hired by the county. We are concerned about minority hiring and equal opportunity everywhere in the area. We want to make sure people get fair opportunity.”
According to the suit, Norman was sent home without pay instead of being given light duty after and injury.
It also states how he was given broken and unsafe equipment to operate.
And, according to the lawsuit, Norman complained about the unfair treatment of Black and other minority employees compared to White employees as well as the lack of Black employees working on the job, in positions of management and their ability to be promoted.
Norman also alleges that he was retaliated against for his complaints. During one meeting, a supervisor asked “if this was a Black thing.”
The lawsuit also cites the following:
In 2009, Norman filed a charge of discrimination with EEOC.
In 2010, he complained of discrimination in Public Works department to the county’s Personnel Board after being suspended for insubordination to a supervisor who rarely mingled with Black employees.
In 2011, Norman complained to a supervisor that White employees were getting favorable treatment in overtime work. Norman was disciplined for using a racial slur.
*In 2016, he complained to human resources officials that his supervisor was hindering his promotion.
*He noted that a position he applied for was given to a White man with less experiences who had never worked at a landfill.
*In 2017, Norman was forced to use a street sweeper that was severely damaged, which resulted in him being suspended two days for damaging it.