VDOT Discrimination Plaintiff "Feared for My Life"

Former contract employee suing over alleged racial harassment

Tuesday, May 22, 2012  |  Updated 9:02 PM EDT
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VDOT Discrimination Plaintiff "Feared for My Life"

Keith Smith, a former VDOT contract employee, says he found nooses hanging in the Salem, Va., office where he worked.

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The Virginia Department of Transportation faces a discrimination lawsuit over alleged displays of racial intimidation in one of VDOT’s offices in Salem.

Keith Smith started working with VDOT last year after getting a job through a temp agency.

Smith told NBC4’s sister station in Roanoke, WSLS, that he noticed nooses hanging near the desks of two of his supervisors soon after he started the job, in two separate instances.

Smith also claims he got an indirect threat, so he decided to quit and file a complaint with VDOT.

"A bunch of wild things were going through my head,” Smith told WSLS reporter Aaron Martin. “And I basically just concluded to let the job go. I feared for my life."

Smith said he eventually got a letter from VDOT about the complaint that admitted workplace harassment had occurred. He also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which declined to take up the case.

Now, Smith has decided to file a discrimination lawsuit against VDOT and his two former supervisors. 

VDOT issued a statement to WSLS that read, in part:

“VDOT received a complaint from a contract employee alleging workplace harassment based on race. The civil rights division investigated the complaint ... and the VDOT employees involved were disciplined."

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