Milwaukee locksman who was fired after a complaint filed against him by a black man is out his job after an attorney for the victim said Wednesday the city has the power to fire him.
Kathryn G. Johnson, 45, of the city’s South Side, said in a statement that she filed a complaint with the city about Lock and Key Inc., the Milwaukee locks manufacturer that Johnson worked for.
“I was fired because of my race,” Johnson said.
“It’s unfortunate that this case has become a national issue, and that this matter has been brought to the attention of the public and the courts.
This was an unfortunate incident and I am very sorry.
The only reason I am out is because of the work I did.”
Johnson has been with Lock and Keys for 18 years and was fired for complaining to a manager that Johnson’s use of the term “black” on a work assignment “was offensive, offensive, racist and discriminatory.”
Johnson was hired in 2003.
The city is seeking $50,000 in damages for Johnson’s wrongful termination and $1.3 million in punitive damages.
The suit alleges that Johnson used a racial slur to describe the African-American man who complained to her in 2008, according to the lawsuit.
Johnson said she told Lock and KEY management that she did not want to use the word, which she said was not an offensive term, because it could cause harm to the person.
The lawsuit also alleged Johnson did not disclose her race on her resume, which was sent to Lock and key executives, according and to a complaint.
Johnson, who also worked at the Milwaukee Zoo and Zoo America, did not respond to a request for comment.
Lock and Key said Johnson was fired in June 2010 and the city filed a discrimination complaint in November 2010.
Johnson’s firing was the latest to come to light in Milwaukee since the fatal shooting of a black teenager, Alton Sterling, by a white police officer in Baton Rouge, La., in July 2016.
A month earlier, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn had fired another black man for using the word “n****r” on Facebook.
In her complaint, Johnson said she was asked to take off her uniform and gloves after she complained about the use of “n*****s” on Lock and keys job application forms.
Johnson said Lock and Keystone officials told her that the word was not acceptable.
Johnson is not alone in her criticism of Lock and Keys.
A federal lawsuit filed in March said Lock Key, which makes locks and keyrings for companies such as McDonalds and Amazon, has been accused of using the phrase “nigger” on job applications.
The Justice Department filed a civil rights complaint against Lock and Kys and the company in August 2016 alleging that Lock Key discriminates against people of color and against employees of color.
Lock Key denied Johnson’s claims in a letter to Johnson’s attorney, saying Johnson “had no prior knowledge of any complaint that Lock and KEys had received regarding Lock and/or KEys’ use of ‘n*****r’ on their application forms.”
The city said Lock key fired Johnson because she was “conducting business as Lock and is not an employee.”