NORTH PORT — Fatigued by “slave” songs from co-workers, a noose inside his city truck, David Williams resigned from North Port’s Solid Waste division.
Williams, who is black and drove a North Port rubbish truck through 2019, awaits a ruling from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, anticipating North Port will have been shown to retaliate when he filed complaints for alleged workplace discrimination, he said.
The alleged incidents occurred over two years, included Solid Waste co-workers slinging insults, he said, such as singing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” an African American spiritual, mocking himself and a Hispanic co-worker by calling them “peanut butter and Nutella.”
“They called me ‘lazy Dave’ or made fried chicken jokes,” said Williams, who is 35, “and I got wrote-up twice for complaining.”
The last straw, Williams said, was finding an auxiliary cable hanging from a mirror in his work truck wrapped as a noose. The cord powered cellphones and tablets. He photographed that cord.
When going to superiors and a police investigation failed to fix things, Williams resigned. He filed with the EEOC, a federal agency that started with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and included his photo of the cord. Its agents investigate discrimination, including race.
A former corrections officer living in Port Charlotte, Williams said the alleged harassment didn’t seem good-natured.
“I’ve got this, if (the city) is wanting to go the distance with me,” meaning a likely civil lawsuit, Williams said. “They can take it to court, if they want to.”
North Port has countered, determining that the wiring was “stored in a way to keep it from dangling down and impeding the driver visually,” spokesperson Josh Taylor said Wednesday, adding that “the employee who wrapped the cable frequently kept (it) stored in this manner, and did not even know Mr. Williams would be entering the vehicle. The city has zero tolerance for any discriminatory or harassing acts.”
Williams as a city waste-hauler had appeared with his co-workers in videos promoting North Port Solid Waste. The drivers, for instance, lip-sync tunes in Christmas outfits. Those videos elevate drivers to celebrities, he said.
“I loved that job,” he added.