It took a federal jury less than 30 minutes to decide that a local construction company owner did not violate a worker’s rights or retaliate against him when he fired the man for insubordination.
The civil lawsuit against J.M. Hanner Construction Co. alleged that Jerry Hanner had fired temporary employee Chad Byers in retaliation for his talking with the media after a noose was found at the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee construction site in Chattanooga.
The lawsuit also alleged that Hanner did little to resolve ongoing racially-motivated incidents at the job site, which involved other subcontracted workers and his employees.
As he left the courthouse Tuesday afternoon following the verdict, Byers questioned the speed of the verdict.
“Of course with a quick deliberation like that you know they didn’t spend much time going over all of the evidence,” Byers said. “I think they set America back 100 years with a verdict like this.”
Hanner simply said he felt better after the verdict in a case that had occupied him and his attorneys since it was filed in July 2009.
Byers had sued his former employer, J.M. Hanner Construction, alleging civil rights violations, racial discrimination and retaliation over what his attorney characterized as a racially charged work site at the BlueCross BlueShield downtown construction site in the summer of 2008.
Witnesses testified during the two-day trial that racial slurs and drawings were on portable toilet walls, including a drawing of a black man being hanged with a rebel flag. Three nooses were found at the site on different days, according to testimony.
Byers, who is black, claimed he was fired after his boss, Hanner, who also is black, told him not to talk with the media shortly after the first noose was found and some workers began getting sick on the job.
Hanner testified that Byers had been suspended for two days for using profanity, including a racial slur, and that, during Byers’ two months on the job, he repeatedly had not followed instructions.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...