A former city employee has filed a racial discrimination suit against the city in federal court.
Henry L. Smith Jr. filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Albany seeking a full-time job, past pay and benefits from the city that fired him in 2006.
Smith worked as a part-time laborer for the city Department of Public Works from March 2004 to June 2006 and alleged he was passed over for promotions to full-time work in the city because he’s black. White people got the jobs with higher pay and benefits, the suit alleges.
Smith said he was forced to leave his job because of discrimination.
The lawsuit doesn’t list a dollar figure that Smith is seeking, and Smith’s attorney, W. Bradley Krause, didn’t return a call for comment Wednesday.
In the lawsuit, Smith said he suffered public humiliation, depression and high blood pressure as a result of the ordeal. He seeks an undisclosed amount of money for those issues as well.
Smith filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a couple of months after losing his job, and in September 2007 the commission found that the city did discriminate against Smith.
In doing so, it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, determined Elizabeth Cadle, director of the commission’s Buffalo office.
The city had maintained that it didn’t promote Smith because he didn’t work the required number of hours, but the commission determined that a white employee who worked fewer hours than Smith got a promotion.
John Aspland, the attorney representing the city in the EEOC matter, said last year that the city promoted other black employees in the past, including Smith’s father.
But Cadle wrote last year that the city hadn’t promoted any black part-time employees in the five years before Smith complained.
Smith also alleged that the city released part of his confidential employment records to the media after he filed the complaint, which the commission determined was true even though city officials denied it.
The city attorney did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
Smith’s allegations against the city came to a head last fall as Thomas McTygue, then commissioner of public works, waged an unsuccessful campaign for re-election.
McTygue is not named in the suit, but headed up the department during the years time Smith worked there.