Genesee County Road Commission Worker Settles Reverse Discrimination Lawsuit for $185,000

Case Summary

Type of Action:          Whistleblower Protection Act, ELCRA Discrimination

Injuries Alleged:        Mental anguish, emotional distress and outrage

Name of Case:           Robert McKenzie and Richard Schwarz v. Genesee County Road Commission, Kermit Pitts, and Anthony Branch

Court:                         Genesee County Circuit Court 

Case No:                    11-96608-CZ

Tried Before:             Jury (settled on Day 2 of trial)

Name of Judge:          Hon. Richard Yuille

Verdict/Settlement:    $185,000 for Richard Schwarz, only

Date of Verdict:         Jury (settled on Day 2 of trial)

Last Offer to Settle:               ADR for $65,000 for each Plaintiff, Plaintiff Schwarz accepted, Defendants rejected.

Most Helpful Experts:           N/A

Key To Winning:        Disproving Defendants’ alleged proffered business reasons and defenses with the testimony of their own employees and with their own documents 

Allocation of Fault:    N/A

Insurance Carrier:     N/A

Attorney for Plaintiff:            Tom R. Pabst, Michael A. Kowalko and Jarrett M. Pabst

Attorney for Defendant:        Withheld

Description of Case:             



Robert McKenzie and Richard Schwarz, hardworking long-time white employees of Defendant Road Commission, were unlawfully punished and retaliated against for having the courage to do the right thing in the workplace.  Specifically, their two African-American bosses, favored black employees over white employees when it came to the terms and conditions of employment, creating two sets of rules, one set of rules for white employees, and another set of rules for black employees. 

There was one African-American employee in particular whom Plaintiff McKenzie knew had a history of showing up to work impaired from alcohol, and had a concern that he was going to show up to work again in that condition.  Knowing that the suspected alcohol-abusing employee was supposed to drive a big truck filled with heavy materials out on the public roads and highways, Robert McKenzie and Richard Schwarz reported this to employees and supervisors of the Genesee County Road Commission.  No doubt because the public could be put in danger, Plaintiffs’ white supervisor actually told Robert McKenzie, “report it to the police”, whereupon Robert McKenzie did report it to police authorities.  The African-American employee had, in fact, shown up to work that morning and smelled of alcohol. 

  So, Plaintiff McKenzie contacted and alerted the police that this man would be on the roads.  Plaintiff Schwarz assisted both McKenzie and the police officer who arrived at the job site in their investigations.  This same African-American employee was someone that the African-American Defendant Supervisors favored and claimed did not drink on the job.  However, when the employees of the Road Commission where deposed, white employees said that they had personally witnessed the African-American employee either drunk or smelling of alcohol on the job.  When asked why they did not step up and report this behavior, they responded that they were “afraid of retaliation” from African-American Supervisors.

 Ironically, although Defendant Supervisors denied that they knew that one of their favored African-American employees was a drunk, that particular employee filed a lawsuit of his own, and sued Defendants in Federal court because he claimed they knew he was a drunk and did not accommodate him enough, and that, basically they “failed to accommodate his alcoholism and/or drunkenness”!!  In that Federal lawsuit, the African-American employee, whom the Defendant Supervisors were grooming to be a supervisor over white employees with more seniority and more competency, admitted that he smoked marijuana in the workplace, and in fact, smoked marijuana driving equipment down the local expressways in Genesee County, particularly, I-475.  Defendants claimed they had no knowledge of any of this.

The trial started November 15, 2013, and Plaintiff Richard Schwarz settled his case on day two of the trial.

*For more than 30 years, veteran civil rights attorney Tom R. Pabst has been successfully representing people in Genesee County and surrounding areas.  His vast experience has proven effective in protecting the rights of his clients, and thwarting the injustices they have been subjected to.  Time and again, his track record has shown that Tom R. Pabst is one of the leading civil rights attorneys in the State of Michigan.