David Womble, a Dallas County maintenance supervisor, leaves an impression on his employees. In June, three of them sued the county for discrimination after one, Dennis Jones, was fired for having previously disclosed felony convictions while his white colleagues were not.
Womble, the suit claimed, created a hostile work environment, making racial taunts and anti-gay jokes. He allegedly once put fake gold teeth in his mouth and "began strutting around the room as a racist joke in an attempt to demean and humiliate." During one period of several months, a lynched Coke Zero can hung in full view of black employees.
Similar allegations are at the center of a related lawsuit against Dallas County filed today in federal court. The plaintiffs, Darian Fisher and LaParker Smith, were also fired for having previously disclosed felony convictions. Both, like Jones, were later rehired.
Smith and Fisher, who are black, say Womble systematically intimidated and demeaned the predominately minority employees who were under his charge, holding "intimidating racist sessions known as Wednesday Meetings ... during which time African Americans were not permitted to speak, were referred to as 'Bitch,' were the subject of homophobic comments, were subjected to racist remarks, and were otherwise ridiculed."
During one such meeting, Womble allegedly announced that any employee who did not do his job would be beaten in the boiler room, which "was a race-based threat because the meeting was for shift workers, and most shift workers are minorities," the suit states.
Womble also liked to show black employees cutesy animations on his phone, namely one of a "cooked and dressed turkey with the head of an African American man that would run around saying, "NIGGER, NIGGER, NIGGER."
When Fisher and Smith tried to have their grievances addressed through the county's human resources department, they got nowhere. When they met with county higher-ups, it was within hearing of Womble and his allies. At one point, HR director Mattye Mauldin-Taylor told Smith to drop discrimination claims because "pursuing a lawsuit is a 50-50 chance and working for Dallas County is a sure thing," according to the suit.
The men are suing for discrimination, retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They're asking for unspecified damages.