Black Michigan man says he was called the N-word, fired from brewing company

Tracy Evans alleges in a lawsuit that he was subjected to a "racist work environment" during the four years he was employed by Founders Brewing Company.
Tracy Evans, who previously worked at Founders Brewing Co.
Tracy Evans, who says he was fired from Founders Brewing Co. after he said he would go to HR about their "racist work environment".Leigh Ann Cobb

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By Minyvonne Burke

A black man in Michigan is suing the brewing company he worked for, claiming he was called the N-word by co-workers, denied a promotion because of his race and ultimately fired when he told a manager he was going to human resources.

Tracy Evans, of Wayne County, filed the lawsuit in August 2018 in the Eastern District of Michigan, alleging that he was subjected to a "racist work environment" during the four years he was employed by the Founders Brewing Company.

Founders Brewing Company in a statement denied race played any role in Evans' termination, but did not address the other allegations of racism in the workplace.

In a deposition regarding Evans' claims, Founders' general manager Dominic Ryan said he could not definitively say whether the employee is black.

"I don't know Tracy's lineage, so I can't speculate on whether he's — if he's from Africa or not," Dominic Ryan, who is white, said when an interviewer asked him about Evans' race.

When the interviewer continued to question Ryan and asked the manager if he knew whether Michael Jordan and former president Barack Obama are black, he responded that he had never met them.

According to an amended complaint in October 2018, Evans was hired at the Grand Rapids location in 2014 as a packaging machine operator. He later transferred to a Detroit location, where he was fired in June 2018.

Evans alleges that at both locations he was either called the N-word by a co-worker or a colleague used the racial slur around him. When he reported both instances to human resources "his complaints fell upon deaf ears" and the employees were allowed to continue working for Founders, the lawsuit states.

At the Grand Rapids location, Evans' colleagues allegedly labeled an upstairs printer "white guy printer" and the one downstairs "black guy printer."

When Evans applied for a promotion in 2015, the two open positions were given to his white co-workers even though Evans had trained both of them and they had been employed with Founders for a shorter period of time.

In June 2018, Evans met with a supervisor and informed him of his plans to meet with human resources about the work environment and how he was treated. Days later, Evans was fired for "pretextual reasons."

The lawsuit says Evans "received unequal treatment, was denied a promotion, and was ultimately terminated based on his race and in retaliation for complaints regarding his treatment."

It further alleges that he was "subjected to disparate scrutiny and disciplinary practices when compared to his Caucasian comparators."

Founders Brewing Company, in the statement posted on its website, said they planned to file a motion to dismiss the case.

"Founders evaluated and decided to terminate Mr. Evans based only on his job performance," the company said, adding that it plans to release documents to prove his termination was not based on his race or retaliation.

The company also responded to Ryan's deposition, saying in its statement that he "was simply saying that he does not assume anything about individuals’ race or ethnicity unless they tell him that information."