A Black Mississippi woman has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit alleging her former employers at Habitat for Humanity who she said did not protect her against repeated racist conduct by her supervisor.
According to the federal complaint obtained by the Starkville Daily News, Andrea Cureton, who was listed as the plaintiff, alleged that supervisors with Columbus-Lowndes Habitat for Humanity, Inc. did not take action when she reported the conduct.
In November 2015, Cureton was hired as a volunteer coordinator. The suit claims that in February 2016, store manager Abby Davis, who is white, allegedly referred to Cureton as a “shy monkey.” The suit alleges Davis showed no remorse about using the language when another employee confronted her while Cureton was present.
The complaint says Cureton immediately notified the organization’s executive director, Kathy Arinder, who did not investigate the incident and instead said: “You’ve got Abby wrong, and if you are going to be like that then let’s just be professional and keep it at that.”
Just one month later, Cureton allegedly heard Davis say, “I just hate to see Black guys in Kroger looking at me like they want to steal my purse.”
This time when Cureton reported it to Arinder, the executive director said she would speak with Davis.
Then in 2017 when a mixed-race couple came to the store to donate some books, Davis told Cureton: “I’m sorry but that’s just not right. [The white woman] was talking all ghetto.”
Other accusations in the complaint claim when two disabled siblings came to the store to volunteer, Davis told Cureton “never to invite them back because they were a liability to the organization.”
Davis is also accused of referring to her childhood nanny as “stinky” and “big Black woman.” She also allegedly complained, “Black men did not know how to fill out applications.”
Cureton claims she reported every incident to Arinder, who would “always” promise to address the matters with Davis, but in the end, no action was ever taken.
Cureton reached her breaking point earlier this year when Davis accused her of stealing from the store. Although Cureton reported the erroneous allegation to Arinder, Davis continued to accuse her of stealing.
One day, both Davis and Arinder yelled at Cureton, who feared she was going to be terminated.
On February 22, Cureton resigned. After her resignation, Cureton said Arinder offered Cureton a check for $877, which she refused.
Court documents say Cureton then met with the organization's board and reported the various incidents she experienced. Tony Dunser, the board president, responded to her by apologizing and explaining the organization did not have a policy in place regarding racial harassment or discrimination.
As part of her lawsuit, Cureton requested the court grant the following terms: Back wages and reinstatement or future wages in lieu of reinstatement; compensatory damages; punitive damages; attorney’s fees; and other costs and expenses.
(Photo: Columbus-Lowndes Habitat for Humanity)