Ex-employee’s lawsuit alleges discrimination at Home Depot

A former employee of The Home Depot store in Patton Township is suing the company, claiming he was subjected to degrading and demeaning comments because he is black.

Michael E. Evans, 28, of Bellefonte, makes the allegations in a suit filed Wednesday in U.S. Middle District Court. He also claims he was rebuffed in attempts to file a complaint about the situation.

A lawsuit provides one side of a debate.

A spokesman for Home Depot said he could not comment on the lawsuit because he had not received a copy of the complaint by Wednesday evening, but said the company is committed to supporting diversity.

“I can assure you that we are strongly committed to the respect for the diversity of our associates, customers and communities,” Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes wrote in an email.

Evans says he was hired in May 2008 as a parking lot attendant and, despite seeking other jobs within the store, was not promoted until a corporate human relations representative, who also is black, visited the store.

After a little more than two years at the store, Evans says he was promoted in October 2010 to a position in which he dealt with merchandise and used a forklift, for which he was qualified.

The court complaint alleges the demeaning comments about his race continued, that he was berated over the public-address system, that objects were thrown at him, and that he was pushed and shoved.

Evans claims he was rebuffed in attempts to file a complaint with the store manager and in February 2012 received an evaluation that placed him on probation.

When he attempted to file a complaint with the corporate office in Georgia, he alleges, he was told he could submit it but it was unlikely he would prevail because it would be difficult proving the performance evaluation was based on fallacies, the complaint says.

Evans resigned Feb. 16, 2012, and a filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that August. The EEOC issued him a right-to-sue letter.

He is seeking back and front pay and lost benefits claiming wrongful discharge and failure to promote, along with hostile work environment. He claims he applied for more than 20 positions at the store.