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Dispatcher for T police sues over firing after his comments about a black protester he saw on TV, says he was ousted because the T discriminates against white people

A Transit Police dispatcher says he's owed big time for getting fired after watching a TV account of the arraignment of a woman charged with climbing onto the base of the Statue of Liberty in a political protest and telling coworkers she "should go back to Africa," - because he wasn't being racist, but merely expressing his political opinions and that if anybody's being racist, it's the T for forcing his firing because he's white.

Mark Hayes is suing both the MBTA and IXP Corp., which has a contract to run dispatch operations for Transit Police. In it, he alleges the T and the company discriminated against him because he's a white American and violated his First Amendment rights and his right to due process. He filed his suit in state court in Norfolk County last month, but the case was transferred to federal court this week at the request of the MBTA because it raises several federal issues.

Hayes alleges he was fired over an incident on Aug. 4, 2018, in which a TV in the Transit Police dispatch center on Southampton Street was tuned to a news broadcast with a segment about Therese Okoumou. Okoumou, born in the Congo, but then a resident of Staten Island, had been arraigned for a July 4 protest over Trump immigration policies in which she forced the closing of the Statue of Liberty by climbing up onto the statue's base and refusing to come down.

Hayes, who says he served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and is a former police officer, says Okoumou's disrespect for America and for the police who risked their lives to get her down, on July 4th, no less, was more than he could bear and so he exclaimed, "If she hates America so much, she should go back to Africa."

A black co-worker - whom he alleges already had it in for him - immediately replied "That was a racist comment!" his suit alleges.

Hayes acknowledges he responded. According to his complaint, he told the co-worker he was simply a patriot expressing a political view about a wretch who should be grateful to the country that gave her refuge, that Okoumou was disrespecting members of the armed services and that Okoumou has the right to "peaceably assemble," but not break the law or ruin the Fourth of July for Statue of Liberty visitors. And, he continued to tell her, he is not a racist because "he has served among many persons of color, persons for whom he would give his life," and that his comment was political and not racist, "just like it would not have been racist if a white Canadian had climbed the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July and Plaintiff had said: 'If she hates America so much, she should return to Canada.' "

At that point, Hayes continues in his suit, a Transit Police lieutenant in the room told everyone to shut up.

But, the suit continues, the lieutenant then wrote up a complaint against Hayes for the incident, which went up the chain of command to Transit Police Supt. Richard Sullivan, who then ordered IXP to suspend Hayes pending a formal investigation. The suit says Hayes's supervisor at IXP at first agreed to suspend him with pay, but two days later, without a formal hearing, fired him.

Hayes says both Transit Police and IXP moved against him simply because he is white and that none of this would have happened were he black and born in an African country:

Upon information and belief, Plaintiff was terminated because he is not Black.

Upon information and belief, Plaintiff was terminated because he is White. ...

Upon information and belief, if Plaintiff's national origin was Africa, he would not have been terminated.

Upon information and belief, Plaintiff was terminated because his national origin is the United States.

Hayes is seeking back pay, the pay he would have received up to this point, plus "emotional damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, liquidated damages, statutory damages and penalties," as well as attorney's fees and interest.

Neither the MBTA nor IXP have yet to file a response to the complaint.

Ed. note: Africa is a continent, not a country. Sullivan is white.

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Comments

A black co-worker - whom he alleges already had it in for him - immediately replied "That was a racist comment!" his suit alleges.

probably has it in for him because he probably makes racist comments all the time.

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Sad Racist White Guy Sad About Being Fired for Being Racist, Claims "Reverse Racism" Like a Chump

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That's the second dumbest lawsuit I've heard today. Perhaps he should join the "Honey Bunches of Oats" lawsuit?

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I see MBTA workers and transit police as hacks before color. Guess I'm just special that way ;)

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Hayes says both Transit Police and IXP moved against him simply because he is white and that none of this would have happened were he black and born in an African country

If he was black and born in an African country, he wouldn't have said anything so stupid because he'd know that the woman on the Statue of Liberty was out there to bring attention to the fear he'd be living in every day that his visa wouldn't get suspended/renewed and send him back to Africa without even a second thought by this current Administration....regardless of the fact that he served our country in the armed forces.

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job opening.

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It's always revealing when a white person does something racist, and then complains that they're being retaliated against "because they're white". It's like they can't even conceive of a white person who isn't racist.

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Have you even travelled on the T? The entire system discriminates against all of us equally. Heat on for the summer, AC blasting on rainy cold days. PULL IT TOGETHER. We suffer as one.

Not his point, obv, but I feel better.

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with bad T service?

Yeah, "not his point" but way bad analogy, dude.

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Or he could have just kept his mouth shut like everybody else in the room and still be working there today.

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Classic republican behavior
-say something ignorant and intolerant
-act like being born in America is a skill instead of random luck
-pretend like you are the victim
-act shocked that actions have consequences
-“how can I be racist if I know a black person?”
-expect to be paid for sitting on the couch but complain about welfare and not see the contradiction

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This is the classic behavior of a jerk. Republicans are like Liberals in that there are plenty of jerks among their each of their ranks.

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killer isn’t always a white guy, nor the racist a white Republican, but that’s the way to bet.”

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“We got a moron here, is that it?”

- Lt. Col. Frank Slade

It is bad form to make a general comment about a group of people.

I have republican friends and family that do not exhibit any of the behaviors.

Congrats, though, you just created another vote for Trump.

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based on a single anonymous internet comment?

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you missed my point. I'm not a Trump supporter.

your point wasn’t missed - it’s just a really dumb point.

it’s not on me to be nice to people so that they won’t vote for an aspiring autocrat.

"Sure, I disagree with his politics and his behavior, but I saw a liberal say something I don't like on an anonymous Internet forum so now I'm voting for him!"

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you missed my point. I'm not a Trump supporter.

what's your point then?

That would make a big difference. If he said a black person should go back to Africa he should be fired.

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And it still wouldn't matter.

The fact she was born in the Congo became public the same evening she was arrested. But she's no longer Congolese. She's a US citizen.

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She may no longer live in the Congo, but "Congolese" means "a native or inhabitant of Congo." She'll be a native of Congo until the day she dies, just like I'll be a Bostonian till the day I die, regardless of where I am living or a citizen of at the time.

Also, I always thought that one thing that has always made America an attractive place for immigrants is that they get to hold onto their ethnic and national identities, sometimes for generations, after they become naturalized citizens. It sounds like you're saying that she's forfeited her Congolese identity by becoming a US citizen.

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these days, being racist is a political opinion. it has its very own party and a big fancy house painted its favorite color.

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The White House itself is racist! I’ve been screaming this from the rooftops for years.

Taking a step back here: I certainly don't get to come into work and watch TV in my office -- I think that might lead to my firing in and of itself. Why are MBTA police dispatchers sitting and watching TV on the job? Shouldn't they be, I don't know, watching the security cameras for important transit stations instead?

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A dispatcher has a psychologically rough job as it is. Calls come in whenever and many of them are not pleasant. TV keeps things less tense.

Now you want to add another duty to their already stressful job? Dispatchers dispatch, camera people watch cameras.

What's next? You want to take away firehouse televisions and make the firefighters landscape when there are no fires?

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Capey: If you're going to make an argument at least make it a good argument. Your comparison doesn't work. Firefighters are living at the fire house. Dispatchers are not. Draw comparisons that fit.

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Firefighters are living at the fire house. Dispatchers are not.

Why would dispatchers live at the firehouse?

Our dispatchers sleep at the dispatch quarters. Well, the males do. The females tend to sleep at their stations because the quarters smell like men.

I'm not a mind reader so I don't receive the information that tells me why dispatchers are sleeping at their worksite.

What is the reason that these dispatchers sleep at their jobs? It's a 8 hour a day job; most 8 hour a day jobs do not have people spending their sleep hours at the job.

Could you explain why dispatchers in your area sleep where they work?

Could you explain why dispatchers in your area sleep where they work?

Mandatory holdovers.

It was chronic last year and with President Trumps historically low unemployment numbers, I am not seeing a break for a while.

Not these days. Are you kidding me? If TV news was on at my work it would get tense while deciding what news channel to watch, never mind watching one.

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Why does the T have to hire outside high priced lawyers costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend this ridiculous lawsuit? They have their own legal department with a staff of lawyers that should be able to defend the T against this foolish lawsuit. How many millions of taxpayers dollars does the T spend on high priced downtown lawyers?

d'ya feel like paying $7.50 for a subway ride?

House counsel works full time for full time pay. Only have enough lawyers so that they'll be busy every day. Hiring an attorney more than that is a waste -- she'll be watching television!

When the work gets busy (because, say, more lawsuits than usual) you hire outside counsel for a few cases to clear the load.

Think of 'em as day laborers for a construction site on the busy days.

For some reason the news was on. There was a story. He expressed his opinion on the story, which is that if immigrants have a dislike of this country, they should leave. He explained why he had that opinion when challenged. If a dispatcher reacted to a story of one of Trump's misdeeds by exclaiming "he should be lead directly to jail", would they be facing termination?

Look, if this is an instance amongst many that was fodder for his dismissal, so be it, but even if expressing your opinion is verboten at the center, I see this as no more than a suspendable offense.

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You can't shit in the middle of the room and then say like "look, once someone cleans it up, the room will be the same as it was before".

You've created a hostile working environment. You've ruptured the microcosm you live in 8 hours of the day multiple days a week. You have to leave to repair it.

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By giving him a suspension, you are sending a message, that getting into political discussions with your co-worker while you all watch the news is not conducive to good workplace harmony.

Firing him certainly does make it look like he was being punished for suggesting that an immigrant, and to be perfectly clear an immigrant who is 200 miles away and not a party to the conversation, return from whence she came if she doesn't like the country where she lives now.

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Where I work there are offenses which result in immediate firing. We don't know whether the rules of his employment specify termination for racist remarks.

Perhaps we don't need to. Saying "go back to Africa" concerning a person whose ancestry probably includes people from Africa is tantamount to calling the woman every racist name I can think of.

I know of many racist names because I grew up around white racists. One of their favorite phrases was, "they should go back to Africa."

What if the fellow said, "I want to rape that b)(()* b**(*)." Suspension or termination? I ask because "go back to Africa" is equally violent due to the hatred of that remark.

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But I would say that telling (and by telling I mean saying, since telling literally would entail the person receiving the message) someone who it has been established was was born in Africa to go back to Africa is no more racist than telling someone born in China to go back to Asia, telling someone born in Mexico to go back to Latin America, or telling someone born in Sweden who thinks the US needs an overarching welfare state to go back to Europe.

And to be clear, if he said it to a black person born in the US (or not born in Africa), yeah, it's racist, or to say the least ignorant. And if he said that to someone calling the Transit Police, that would most likely be grounds for termination regardless of where the person was actually born.

In our culture when a white person says, "They should go back to Africa" the statement is based upon a racist hatred. Not recognizing that requires an ignorance of bigotry by whites against blacks. It is a portion of American patois that derives from the hatred of whites against non-whites who are dark skinned and not of Spanish descent.

Who has heard the phrase, "They should go back to Sweden," or Ireland or Germany?

Either you truly are ignorant of racist language that is part of the US American language patois or you're just a nasty hateful bigot who hides behind the thin slip of pedantry. Either way you exhibit a fundamental ignorance of hatred by whites against blacks here in the US of A.

But in this case it made sense. He explained exactly what he meant, which should have provided context. Again, worthy of a trip to HR (assuming this was the only issue with the discipline) and perhaps a day or two at home to ponder how his actions affected his co-workers, but saying that someone born in Africa who has an issue with the US should return to the continent of their birth might be an arguable point, but a point nonetheless.

Diversity at the MBTA is horrendous so getting a bad apple out is a win. Dispatchers should be unionized. Getting a union employee fired from the MBTA takes a lot. There has to be documented violations. Once a union employee gets fired, usually the union helps the former employee sue to get their job back. Even better if it can go through MCAD. If it’s a private contractor position, yeah one and done. .

What is the law and what are his rights? It's pretty obvious the dude has some prejudices (most white folks do, they've been socialized from a very young age), but can they fire him? At a private company they could fire him in an instant and he'd have no grounds to sue. At the MBTA he might be unionized and so he has a right to due process. However, he is contracted and IXP is his employer and so he might not be unionized in which case, I'm not sure he has a leg to stand on with this case. Personally, I think he should be fired, but we ought to stand up for the rights of everyone even if we don't like what they say.

Even the essence of this federal case, claiming racial discrimination, is very weak. He was not fired for being white, and even with my attack on this being a fireable offence, even I see that his race is not a factor. He was fired for voicing his opinion, which in of itself was not racist.

One can express one's opinion without using a comment that another person will find as a racist attack.

The language that this racist used has a history and it is not a good history:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/16/us/politics/aoc-trump-tlaib-omar-pres...

So sick of this BS.

Okoumou was disrespecting members of the armed services /blockquote>

From the Colin Kapernick haters on down the line.

Talk to me when somebody is actually disrespecting the armed services.

And never forget that the armed services serve the civilian population, hence the name.

They need to be respected but also scrutinized relentlessly.

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at The Sinclair. I don't know his music very well, but have many friends who are ardent fans. I suspect I would have enjoyed Friday's second night of his three-night stand more, the one that will draw more from his earlier, more punk-rock days.

He did a mostly acoustic and entirely solo set for the first night, struck me as a sort of cockney Bruce Springsteen in Nebraska mode, but more hard-left in his politics, a late scion of Woody Guthrie. A fascinating, very entertaining show. He interspersed his songs with a lot of very funny, discursive polemics to an adoring crowd. His guitar playing was brilliant: I can play the same six or seven chords he mostly relies on, but can't make poetry of them like he does.

Paraphrasing one of his spoken riffs: "Political correctness is a weapon that reactionaries use to police the margins of social progress." That one stuck with me.

Whatever your politics, he's a brilliant storyteller and musician. And the Sinclair is a really fine little venue with good sight lines and beer. Catch him if you can.

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are you mentioning Bragg's cherry-picked line that "PC culture = bad" for a reason?

In no way whatsoever does it pertain to a racist knucklehead being a moron at work.

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clear in my paraphrasing, he was pointing out that the tacit reason right-wingers object to so-called PC culture is that it asks people with privilege not to use hateful or demeaning speech to people with less privilege, thereby diminishing their ability to repress the marginalized.

You know, like a white guy claiming that, despite using racist speech, he's the real victim of reverse racism / PC culture, like this ridiculous douche.

There was a lady in the audience last night who listened to Bragg's song that ironically praises xenophobic barriers like Trump's wall, and thought he meant it earnestly, and started screaming at him from the audience. He gently explained to her, "Um, it's a parable, not a literal hymn to the wall." She felt demeaned and unsafe (despite the fact that all anyone was doing was laughing at her) and left, to everyone's relief.

In the case of that misunderstanding, that woman was just an idiot with no grasp of verbal irony. I blame my poor retelling of Bragg's statement if you didn't get my point.

non-sequiturs be damned.. I'm not a superfan of his, but I've seen him in Northampton and Montreal and he's really terribly good at interacting with the audience on a personal level.

His political advocacy is more developed and articulate than most musicians. Take a gander at his social media.

Funny you mention Woody Guthrie. Check out Bragg's collaboration with Wilco on "Mermaid Avenue, Vols. 1 & 2." They're Woody Guthrie songs that were never recorded that they created music for and brought to life.

Step 1: Say "I'm not racist."...

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Only step needed for EPIC FAIL LOL

Everything he said was indeed racist. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN have friends of another race and still be racist. If they have any common sense, however, they'd kick you to the curb figuratively and/or literally. The FACT is, and only scumbags would deny this, is that is doesn't make you "not racist" by having "black" friends., "Latino" frineds, etc. It makes you NOT RACIST by NOT SAYING RACIST SHIT. Maybe criminal charges too, put him in a cell with Big Bubba, who I hear is also a Black Panther. He'd do the same thing to racist scum that he would to pedophile scum.

tl, dr; Another Trumptard running its mouth off, if common sense prevails, it will lose its case entirely.

The most important thing is not to impese the ability of the T to fire their workers.

That house should be thoroughly cleaned.

It's not really that long.

The guy didn't work for the T. The T "thoroughly cleaned" its police dispatch center by hiring an outside company to run it - and this guy worked for that private company. So by your logic, should the T clean house again, fire the company and hire civil servants for dispatching?

It's right there in the second paragraph (granted, the first paragraph is kind of wordy, but still):

Mark Hayes is suing both the MBTA and IXP Corp., which has a contract to run dispatch operations for Transit Police.