Employee sues GW, supervisor for racial discrimination

Updated on Aug. 29 at 2:40 p.m.

A facilities worker filed a lawsuit against GW last week, claiming his supervisor refused to work with black employees and restricted their opportunities for pay increases – a complaint he says the University has ignored for more than a year.

Carl McArthur, a mechanic who has worked at GW for nearly three decades, accused his supervisor, Robert Oakley, of discrimination against black employees and for repeatedly foiling his chances for promotion.

He said Oakley, who is white, once “embarrassed and humiliated” him without cause, according to D.C. Superior Court documents filed Aug. 15. The mechanic also alleged that his supervisor denied black employees in Facilities Services’ heating, ventilation and air conditioning department more “desirable” overtime assignments.

Daniel Kozma, McArthur’s attorney, wrote in an email that he and his client were “in settlement discussions” with GW, and he had not yet served the complaint.

GW promoted Oakley to supervisor in 2005, a position McArthur claims he was more qualified to fill. McArthur also says that Oakley’s direct superior is black, but instead he opts to report to a white supervisor.

In the lawsuit, McArthur demands compensation for lost wages and punitive damages because he alleged Oakley prevented him from receiving promotions multiple times, though his credentials were better than other candidates’. He asserts Oakley most often assigned black employees to duties that were “little more than changing filters,” cleaning and polishing, according to the court documents.

Kozma declined to comment on the exact amount for which McArthur is suing for damages.

McArthur also said a Human Resources committee in June 2012 found “management’s interactions with employees inconsistent with the University’s standard and fair hiring practices,” according to the documents. McArthur filed the grievance with GW, alleging Oakley denied him the opportunity to apply for a higher position.

But McArthur contends the University did not follow up on the finding. He has maintained the same job since 1991 and alleges he has not been able to apply for a position two pay grades above his current salary.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said she was unable to provide a comment before publication time.

D.C. Superior Court has scheduled an initial conference for Nov. 22 to address the claim.

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