A Black therapist in Alabama filed a lawsuit this week accusing her employer of retaliation in a horrific saga involving an allegedly racist co-worker that she says culminated with the discovery of a noose at her home.
On its website, Alabama Mentor says it provides foster care assistance for children, adults, and families. But not long after she was hired in 2019, Takiya Lawson-McCants says in the suit, she started to experience harassment at the company’s Birmingham location.
In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday, Lawson-McCants claims that a white co-worker bragged about living in a “sundown town,” or a community with a majority-white population where Black people are unwelcome or worse after dark.
Lawson-McCants specifically says the colleague went on to tell her that she had a family member who hanged Black people who do not leave town by sunset. The co-worker allegedly continued to joke about her own family’s history and take pride in the racist legacy of her hometown, named in the suit as Arab, Alabama. (The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
According to the suit, the colleague went so far as to say that Black children could be lynched there, and that a white family who hosted Black people in their home could find a burning cross in their yard as a result.
The co-worker also spewed racist bile more generally, the lawsuit claims, calling Black people a slew of racial epithets including “n----r,” “black bitch,” “slave,” and “monkeys.”
Alabama Mentor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Lawson-McCants says in the suit that she tried to brush off the racism in her workplace, but that it became so elevated that she could no longer ignore it. She and a Black colleague reported the white co-worker’s behavior, according to the lawsuit, but nothing seemed to happen.
Instead, the plaintiff claims, the co-worker was not fired—and even got promoted, only for the racism to escalate.
At one point, Lawson-McCants says, white women in the workplace tried to retaliate against her and other Black employees. She says that they created a private group chat where they talked about their Black co-workers and criticized Black foster parents.
Eventually, the suit says, Lawson-McCants filed an official complaint against the co-worker—only for things to go further off the deep end.
After the complaint was filed, Lawson-McCants claims, she found a noose hanging in a tree in her backyard. She also says that she started to be harassed with calls from the co-worker’s hometown, and threatened that the Ku Klux Klan was still active.
“Employees have a right to a workplace that is free from racial hatred and retaliation. Takiya is exercising her rights,” Lawson-McCants’ lawyer, Brian Noble, told The Daily Beast.
“In some circles, even here in Alabama, people seem to think this kind of egregious, openly racist behavior has largely disappeared—or at the very least, it’s gone underground. Of course, it hasn’t. It’s very real,” he added. “It takes tremendous courage for anyone, let alone a current employee, to come forward with this kind of information. But that’s what has to happen. In my view, Takiya is a hero and an inspiration.”
Lawson-McCants says she went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to file a complaint. But she also claims Alabama Mentor hired a defense team and made arbitration agreements mandatory in connection with her employment. Otherwise, she could lose her job if she refused to comply and sign away her right to a jury trial, the lawsuit says.
Ultimately, Lawson-McCants seeks retribution for “humiliation, embarrassment, and mental anguish” she says she experienced throughout the ordeal. She is also asking for Alabama Mentor to implement new procedures to prevent discrimination in the workplace.