Action prompts filing of amendment to original discrimination complaint
MEMPHIS — On the heels of a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a former executive of Canadian National Railway Company (CN), the company and two subsidiaries have struck back with their own lawsuit, along with a demand for a seven-figure monetary punishment.
The suit, filed Tuesday, April 16, comes in response to a March 2019 complaint by former General Manager Tracy Miller that outlines CN’s actions of discrimination and interference with his opportunities for future employment. CN subsidiaries Illinois Central Railway Co. (IC) and Grand Trunk Corporation joined their parent company in the counterclaim.
The March complaint filed by Miller, who was employed with CN and IC from 1994 to 2019, alleges that despite his excellent employee record and high regard by his peers, he was passed over for promotion at least five times beginning in 2015, while white employees with less experience and time with the company advanced instead.
Nashville-based Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings (BS&J) has now filed a second amended complaint on Miller’s behalf, incorporating the retaliatory suit in its argument for evidence of discrimination. The claim was filed April 22, 2019, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis.
“Months after Mr. Miller’s departure from the company, CN continues to engage in vindictive conduct against him,” said Joe P. Leniski Jr., attorney with BS&J. “As stated in our second amended complaint, CN only began pressing for the return of resources gained through the exercise of his well-earned stock options once Mr. Miller brought his claims of discrimination — even though CN has been in possession of all facts within their counterclaim for several months. This timing clearly demonstrates an intent to intimidate Mr. Miller for his action in asking to be offered the same respect and opportunities as CN’s white employees.”
Miller’s initial claim, filed in March, alleges that the defendants discriminated against Miller because of his race. Additionally, the claim alleges that the defendants are preventing Miller from accepting employment with Canadian Pacific Railway or other competitors by selectively enforcing a non-compete covenant against him. The suit notes instances in which CN did not enforce similar covenants against six white CN employees who left the company to join industry competitors.
CN’s counterclaim alleges breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation and unjust entitlement. It seeks an order disgorging the amounts Miller received from stock options, an award of damages in excess of $1 million, and other damages and fees.
“This is an instance where a multi-billion dollar corporation is targeting the life work and savings of one individual, asking for exorbitant damages in repayment for wages and options that Miller has fairly earned,” Leniski said. “It also attempts to block him from accepting employment equal to his experience, an act that CN should understand is vindictive and unfair, especially in light of their past requirements for in-house training on matters of equal opportunity employment.”
Miller’s initial claim marked the fifth time in 10 years that an employee has brought suit against CN on the grounds of racial discrimination. This comes despite a 2010 consent decree in which CN and its subsidiaries agreed to implement substantial and regular anti-bias training for its Human Resources and management staff.
Additional information about the suit can be found at www.bsjfirm.com.
About Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (www.bsjfirm.com)
For more than 65 years, Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC has been known for the quality of its advocacy and the integrity of its attorneys. The firm enjoys a national reputation of prominence in the complex litigation arena for its work in class actions, shareholder derivative claims, securities, ERISA, labor and employment, and other complex cases, both at the trial and appellate levels.
Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is dedicated to providing a full range of legal services to its diverse clientele. In addition to providing quality legal services, the firm is proud of the professional and civic leadership its members have provided, both locally and nationally. The firm’s former managing partner, Jane Branstetter Stranch, was nominated by President Obama to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and now serves as a judge on that court following her confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and was named among “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report for 2019, receiving the highest possible Nashville ranking as a Tier 1 in two practice areas.