SHEBOYGAN – A Sheboygan man is suing the city for racial discrimination after he accused it of firing him last year after the garbage truck he was driving was involved in a collision.
In a federal civil rights suit filed May 4 in a Milwaukee courthouse, Tyler Jones, who is white, alleges the city fired him but kept employed a black co-worker who Jones alleges was involved in the collision in June.
Jones is suing for back pay and unspecified damages and is requesting reinstatement to his job.
“It was made very definitely with the race of both people in mind,” Janet Heins, his attorney, said of the city’s alleged decision to fire Jones last year.
In his court filing, Jones says an “African American” co-worker struck the garbage truck he was driving. The collision, as described in the suit, happened as Jones said he was “slowly” backing his vehicle onto a scale. He acknowledged nobody was available to work as a spotter while he was backing up, something he noted was required by city policy.
OTHER NEWS: Community rallies around boy fighting for life
OTHER NEWS: Sheboygan County crash pins woman’s arm
Sandy Rohrich, the city’s human resources director, and who the lawsuit says fired Jones, said Tuesday she hadn’t seen a copy of the court filing and couldn’t speak to specific allegations in it. But she offered a brief description of the incident referenced in Jones’ complaint.
“The truck Tyler Jones was driving in reverse struck a vehicle behind him,” she said, noting the collision caused more than $10,000 in damage to the other vehicle. She said she was “not aware of any substantial damage, or any damage,” to the garbage truck Jones had been driving.
Rohrick confirmed the city had fired Jones, who in his lawsuit said the termination came three months to the day after he’d been hired as a city maintenance worker.
The other driver, Rohrick added, was still working for the city as of Tuesday.
In his suit, Jones said his manager ordered him to take a drug test and go home after the June collision incident — things he said the other driver didn’t have to do. Jones said in his lawsuit he passed the drug test, but was fired several days after the crash.
Heins, Jones’s lawyer, called the case “pretty simple.”
“You have two employees who committed the same infraction, and the city bent over backwards to help the black employee and they terminated the white employee,” she said.
In his lawsuit, Jones said he’d filed discrimination notices with the state’s Equal Rights Division and with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, steps Heins said were required before moving forward with the lawsuit.