By Alexander Bolton - 08/04/10 10:00 AM EDT
A longtime employee of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has accused its leaders of racial discrimination after they fired him last month.
Keith Carter, who joined the NRSC in 1995, has charged Republican officials with creating a hostile environment for the two African-American employees who worked at the committee.
He filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court on Monday.
Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the NRSC, disputed the charges.
“This is an unfortunate action taken by a disgruntled former employee,” said Walsh. “The suit is meritless, and we look forward to its resolution.”
Walsh declined to comment on the specific allegations of the 11-page complaint because the suit is pending.
In his lawsuit, Carter names three senior NRSC officials: Executive Director Rob Jesmer, Chief Counsel Sean Cairncross and Chief Financial Officer Jay Banning.
The law firm Alderman, Devorsetz & Hora is representing the plaintiff.
Carter, who was hired as a building engineer, claims he was a respected NRSC staff member for nearly 14 years. He was given the duties of building manager of the committee’s headquarters and often invited to participate in management meetings.
Carter says that changed in 2009.
“In March 2009, Mr. Carter’s duties and the manner in which he was treated changed dramatically,” his complaint states.
He said he was excluded from regular management meetings, stripped of his supervisory responsibility and ordered to perform menial tasks.
The complaint alleges that senior GOP staff referred to Carter and another African-American employee — the only two black members of the staff — as “boys,” even though they were both older than 40.
Carter claims that when one Republican official asked him and his co-worker to do a job, he would often say: “Boys, we need you to … ”
Carter alleges he was instructed to clean up trash after political events, a task not previously included in his job description.
The complaint also states that Carter “was instructed to clean dog waste that other employees (who regularly bring their dogs to work) neglected to pick up.”
Carter said he was not allowed to remind the white employees to pick up after their own dogs.
Carter also claims he was “berated and cursed at” when he explained that he could not immediately fulfill a request to expand the political director’s office. Carter said he told a senior committee official the wall could not be moved without consultation with an electrician.
The complaint alleges the senior official who berated Carter “does not speak to any of the other white employees of the NRSC in this manner.”
Oversight of telecommunications was shifted to a white employee, the complaint states.
Committee officials fired Carter last month. The NRSC now has one black employee, a building engineer.
A termination letter cited Carter’s failure to obey instructions without question or delay, leaving work early and smoking in the basement, according to the complaint.
Carter has accused the NRSC of racial discrimination, creating a hostile environment based on race, failing to pay him fully for overtime work and firing him in violation of D.C. labor law.
He is suing the committee for economic damages “resulting from the loss of his employment and severe emotional pain and suffering.”
The charges come at a time when political discourse is rife with racial tension.
Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) suggest that the House ethics committee unfairly scrutinizes black lawmakers. Two CBC members, Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), are facing public ethics trials.
The issue of race blew up last month when the NAACP accused the Tea Party of tolerating bigotry within its ranks.
That confrontation spawned a battle over Shirley Sherrod, a black Department of Agriculture (USDA) official accused by conservative activists of exhibiting prejudice against white farmers.
The USDA fired Sherrod, only to backtrack after discovering that an incriminating video of a speech she gave to the NAACP had been heavily edited.