A former manager at Whole Foods in Portland has filed a discrimination lawsuit, alleging the company did nothing while he endured racial harassment and intimidation from other workers, including having a “lynched toy pig” hung from his computer.

William Apire of Portland, a Sudanese immigrant who is now a U.S. citizen, said in the federal lawsuit filed Friday that during the five months he supervised four white employees in the grocery store’s meat department, he was subjected to repeated racial harassment, intimidation and name calling. Apire claims his supervisors were aware of the harassment but did not address it except to tell him to ignore it. Ultimately, the employees who are alleged to be the source of the harassment complained about Apire to senior managers and Apire was fired by the company in July 2013, the lawsuit claims.

Apire filed a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging “discriminatory treatment and retaliatory discharge.” The commission issued a right-to-sue finding on Aug. 21, 2015, according to the lawsuit.

Apire began working at Whole Foods’ Portland location on Somerset Street in May 2007. He alleges the racial discrimination didn’t begin until February 2013, shortly after he was promoted to second assistant team leader of the meat department, which is a managerial role.

The first example of racial discrimination occurred one day in February 2013 when Apire arrived at 7 a.m. to find “a toy pig with a string tied around its neck and hung from the computer screen at the station where he regularly sat down to order supplies each morning,” the lawsuit claims. After he complained, his immediate supervisor told him not to pursue the matter because he would make enemies and make his job harder. Ignoring that suggestion, Apire reported the incident to other managers at the store, but they did nothing, the lawsuit claims.

In another instance, Apire claims the same immediate supervisor told him “he does not talk to Negros and his team should not take orders from Negros,” and on another occasion that same manager told Apire that “Negros should work in the farm or under white man – this is not Africa,” and “there are two things he wants from Plaintiff — death or to go back to Africa forever.” In another example, Aspire claims an employee he managed told him that “Negros should be cleaning his cloths or picking cotton in the farm, not telling a white man or lady what to do.”

Heather McCready, a Whole Foods spokeswoman, provided the following statement Monday afternoon: “We cannot comment on this case as we have not yet been served, however Whole Foods Market has always fostered a culture of respect and empowerment for all Team Members and we take a no-tolerance approach to harassment in any form.”

Apire’s lawsuit includes four counts citing violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He is seeking a jury trial and compensatory damages. He is represented by Portland attorney John Branson.


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