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Former employee files suit against city



Published: Sat, July 7, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.

A former laborer says he was fired for ‘no just cause reason.’

YOUNGSTOWN — A former city street department laborer has sued the city, alleging it illegally punished and fired him in retaliation for his filing a workers’ compensation claim for job-related injuries and discriminated against him because he is black.

In the suit, Keith Lawrence of Manchester Avenue says he worked as a street department laborer from May 2000 until he was laid off in September 2002, and that the city refused to timely recall him to the job because of his worker’s comp claim.

He was rehired July 31, 2006. Unlike other employees who hadn’t filed such claims and unlike similarly situated white employees, Lawrence said he was required to sign an agreement that he wasn’t entitled to union protection and that he would be a probationary employee subject to discharge with or without cause and without any right of appeal or grievance procedure.

The city fired Lawrence for “no just cause reason” in January 2007, according to the suit, which was filed by Atty. Martin S. Hume.

What the suit says

The suit, filed Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, demands a jury trial and calls for Lawrence to be reinstated to his job with back pay and compensated in excess of $25,000.

A letter in Lawrence’s personnel file dated Jan. 7 and signed by Sean McKinney, commissioner of buildings and grounds, told Lawrence he was suspended immediately from his job without pay due to a two-year administrative driver’s license suspension that had been imposed on him Dec. 10, 2006.

On Jan. 9, Mayor Jay Williams wrote a letter telling Lawrence he was being fired, effective immediately. That letter said Lawrence’s driver’s license was suspended in connection with a driving under the influence charge and told him he was still within his probationary period during which the city could terminate him with or without cause.

“It’s got no basis,” Iris Torres-Guglucello, city law director, said of the suit. “We deny all the charges categorically, and the city will defend it to the utmost,” she said, adding that driving is a job requirement for street department laborers.

Lawrence could not be reached for comment.


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