A Black man who worked at a Syracuse Pepsi distributor is accusing the beverage giant of discriminating against him, allowing racist language in the workplace and eventually firing him.
Plaintiff Keith Miles filed a federal race discrimination lawsuit in December, along with two white co-workers — Joseph Hutt and Joshua McClusky — who say they were personally retaliated against for speaking up about what they said was racist treatment of Miles.
Miles was fired in 2019, Hutt quit his job and McClusky remains employed by Pepsi, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit contends that Miles was called a “monkey,” the N-word, asked how he afforded his house, questioned as to whether he dealt drugs, labeled a slumlord; and subjected to racist stereotypes, such as likening his hair to a “dirty mop,” describing those in jail as “his people” and being told that Black people are “lazy and only want welfare.”
The lawsuit seeks $9 million for Miles, $6 million each for the two co-workers, as well as $33 million in punishment against PepsiCo., as well as court-ordered changes to the company’s culture to promote equal opportunities for African-Americans.
It’s filed by civil rights lawyer Charles Bonner, of San Francisco, and Jesse Ryder, of Syracuse. They are the same lawyers who have filed a string of police brutality lawsuits against Syracuse police — including a $1.5 million jury verdict in one case — and represent current Black police officer Brandon Hanks in his racial discrimination suit against his own department.
For its part, PepsiCo. said it would not comment on pending litigation, but touted a corporate culture that it said does not tolerate discrimination. It noted a corporate “Speak Up” hotline that promises to allow workers to share concerns without fear of retaliation.
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SOURCE: Syracuse.com, Douglass Dowty