Waste Connections Inc. reaches settlement in racial discrimination case

October 24, 2019

Tyson Fisher

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After losing at the district court level, winning an appeal and going back to the district court, a South Carolina trucker and Woodlands, Texas-based Waste Connections Inc. have reached a settlement agreement in a racial discrimination lawsuit.

On Oct. 2, a lawsuit filed by Jimmy Haynes against Waste Connections Inc. was dismissed and officially closed. According to court documents, Haynes and Waste Connections informed the court that they have settled.

Haynes lost the case in October 2017 when a federal judge in South Carolina awarded summary judgment to Waste Connections. However, an appellate court ruled in April that the lower court had erred in its decision.

Court records indicate Haynes spent 8 years working for Waste Connections in Duncan, S.C., beginning in July 2007.

The lawsuit claims Haynes had a contentious relationship with his supervisor, and that he was disciplined for his job performance in a manner that was inconsistent with discipline received by his white coworkers. Haynes was fired in 2015 for “job abandonment” after calling in sick to work.

After dealing with South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce Appeals Office and the EEOC, Haynes filed a lawsuit against Waste Connections in June 2016, claiming wrongful termination under Title VII for both discrimination and retaliation and a third claim of general racial discrimination.

District and appellate court decisions

In October 2017, a federal judge for the District of South Carolina determined that Haynes had failed to establish disparate treatment that similarly situated employees received more favorable treatment than him or his termination from employment occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination. Even if Haynes could establish disparate treatment, the court found that Waste Connections established nondiscriminatory reasons for firing him. Consequently, the case was dismissed.

However, Haynes appealed that decision.

In April, the appellate court determined that Haynes had indeed established disparate treatment relative to similarly situated employees.

“Considering this evidence, a reasonable fact finder could conclude that (a white co-worker) and Haynes were appropriate comparators, because they dealt with the same supervisor, were subject to the same standards, and engaged in similar conduct,” the court opined. “Indeed, it appears that (a white co-worker), who had more infractions and was less respectful to his superiors, may have engaged in more egregious conduct, yet received more favorable treatment.”

The appellate court also disagreed on whether Haynes failed to demonstrate he was performing his job at Waste Connections satisfactorily.

“Haynes submitted evidence that (the supervisor) told him in September 2015 (mere weeks before his termination) that ‘everything looks good’ and there was ‘nothing to worry about’ regarding his upcoming performance review,” the court said. “Haynes also received bonuses for the period in question. Such evidence raises the reasonable inference – which must be drawn in Haynes’s favor at this stage – that he was performing at a satisfactory level.”

According to court documents, if the settlement is not completed within 60 days, either party may reopen the case. Either party may also ask the court to enforce the settlement within the 60-day window.

 

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.