Racism alleged at Chattanooga parking company

photo Republic Parking System in Chattanooga

Three employees of Republic Parking System have filed a lawsuit, saying their immediate supervisor used racist comments, sexually offensive language and displayed a hanging noose in the company's downtown office.

Stencial Parrish Jr., Donald Sterling and Vantwan Stokes first made internal complaints to management at the company before filing the suit Tuesday, said their attorney, Randall Larramore.

Allegations of racial discrimination in the lawsuit, including racist jokes and frequent use of the "n-word" described by the employees violated the federal Civil Rights Act and the Tennessee Human Rights Act.

Larramore said he expects Republic to move the case to federal court. He did not disclose an amount sought in either compensatory or punitive damages.

The alleged racist conduct began as early as 2009 and continued until at least July 2010 when the noose was seen by the employees in the company's downtown office, the lawsuit states.

The three men, all of whom are black, did not make a report to the police about the noose, Larramore said.

A phone call Wednesday afternoon to Republic executive offices was not returned.

Republic has at least 30 days to respond to the initial filing.

Larramore, a 14-year attorney whose primary legal practice is employment and family law, said overt actions by his clients' supervisor are rare in the workplace.

"In this day and age you're really not seeing much of that anymore," Larramore said. "It's almost hard to imagine any company that doesn't have a program and policy in place. It's something you definitely don't expect."

The lawsuit alleges also that the company failed to pay overtime to Sterling and Stokes. After Parrish complained to management about his supervisor's conduct, his weekly hours went from 40 to less than 20 hours a week, the lawsuit claims.

Larramore said his clients are protected by law from retaliation connected to this lawsuit, but he anticipates they will face a tense workplace.

Sterling has worked for Republic since 2000. Stokes started working for the company in 2007 and Parrish began in 2008.

All three men worked in separate locations but were supervised by the same person. Larramore said he did not know if the supervisor still worked for Republic.