Tennessee man sues employer over ‘white water fountain’

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    colored-drinking-fountain-bwThe manager of a Tennessee cotton warehouse is obviously ignorant, uncouth and totally unaware of modern technology that enables people to record conversations — particularly racist and vile ones — at a moment’s notice.

    Antonio Harris, a fork lift driver at Atkinson Cotton Warehouse in Memphis, sued his manager because he’d grown tired of racist comments by his “head supervisor.” After enduring one diatribe too many, he used his smartphone to record several conversations.

    When Harris tries to use the office water fountain, the unnamed supervisor says “I need to put a sign here that says ‘white people only.’”

    In another recording Harris tries to use the microwave.

    “Hell no!” says the supervisor.

    When asked why he can’t get a drink, the supervisor clearly says “you are not white.”

    “As a white man, we don’t even let Larry use it,” says the supervisor, referring to a longtime black employee of the warehouse.

    The manager even reminisced to other white workers about segregation with the same fondness a person would if  they were fondly recalling a high sweetheart.

    “Back then, nobody thought anything about it. Now everybody is made to think [separate water fountains for blacks] is bad,” the unidentified manager said.

    Another time, Harris inquired about the consequences of satiating his thirst with the so-called “white” water fountain, the supervisor retorted with the ominous “that is when we hang you.”

    Harris recorded all of these conversations via the voice recorder app on his smartphone. Recording audio without consent is legal in his state of Tennessee — as it is in most states — so the owner of the business had little legal or administrative recourse to halt Harris’ next chess move.

    Harris and coworker Marrio Mangrum filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The warehouse is now mediating a financial settlement with the cotton warehouse’s owner.

    The fate of the manager has not yet been divulged by the company.

     

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