Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
A North Carolina company, currently a darling among Wall Street investors, goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid hiring blacks, according to a federal lawsuit filed by one current and two former employees.
Charlotte-based Campus Crest Communities, which develops student housing near college campuses, recently issued a $380-million IPO. But according to the lawsuit, the company takes specific steps to avoid hiring blacks for certain positions and fosters a racially hostile environment for the blacks who do work there.
Plaintiff Nicole McAuliffe says in the complaint that Campus Crest McAuliffe practiced blatant discrimination against people of color. She and other staff members were directed to hire predominantly young, white women to available positions at the company's various residential rental properties. She was directed to provide her superiors with photographs taken from the FaceBook or MySpace pages of all applicants she recommended to ensure they were not African American.
One supervisor told McAuliffe, "We have Southern investors; they do not like for us to hire blacks." Another supervisor stated, "Once you hire an African American, you never can get rid of them because they think they are so entitled." Several black administrative staff worked in a certain section of the corporate office, and that became known among higher-ups as the "hood."
Qualified blacks--as well as qualified applicants over the age of 40--routinely were excluded from employment opportunities at Campus Crest's residential properties around the country, McAuliffe says.
Plaintiff Heather McCormack states in the complaint that one investor referred to blacks as "Indians." This investor said in a board of directors' meeting that occupancy levels had been reduced because too many "Indians" had been hired.
Ted Rollins, CEO of Campus Crest, helped create the racially hostile environment, McCormack says. Rollins said one black property manager had caused a section of his apartment complex to fall into disrepair because he had been "throwing out his chicken grease at night."
McCormack faced questions when she hired a black female as one of her direct reports at the Charlotte office. "Who hired the black girl with the red hair?" said one of McCormack's superiors. McCormack says she was under constant pressure to terminate the new employee for false reasons.
Plaintiff Tammy Hughes-Brown says in the complaint that Rollins made it a practice to mimic the voice of a black male in her presence, insisting that he sounded just like Bernie Mac, the late African-American comedian.
For the company's 2009 annual meeting, Rollins and Chief Investment Officer Mike Hartnett presented a DVD that featured the two of them wearing large, 1960s-style "Afros." During a portion of the DVD, Hartnett mimics the voice of a black male, and both executives engage in sexually and racially charged remarks.
The Campus Crest story has strong connections to Alabama. Ted Rollins is a central figure in an Alabama divorce case that appears to involve rampant irregularities. Sherry Carroll Rollins had sued Ted Rollins for divorce in South Carolina, where the couple lived at the time. But contrary to black-letter law, he managed to sue her in Alabama, where she and the couple's two daughters had moved after being forced from their home in Greenville.
As we've reported here at Legal Schnauzer, Ted Rollins appears to have benefited from his connections to Bradley Arant Boult and Cummings, one of Alabama's largest and most conservative law firms. Lawyers from the firm's Charlotte office are defending Campus Crest Communities in the discrimination case.
The tawdry Campus Crest tale even has a roundabout tie to the Obama administration. Not long after the lawsuit was filed, a Birmingham-based Bradley Arant lawyer named Abdul Kallon initiated an investigation. Kallon's role in the case ended when he was nominated by President Obama to fill a federal judgeship in the Northern District of Alabama.