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White garbage collector quits, claims bias

Published Oct. 9, 2005

One of only two whites among Boca Raton's 53 garbage collectors has quit his job, saying he was harassed because of his race.

But Jeffrey Annabel's personnel file describes a man with a bad attitude and an even worse attendance record, the city says.

Annabel claims he was unfairly demoted, harassed and forced to quit because he was a white man working in a division dominated by black men.

In late May, Annabel quit, saying that continued harassment by his black supervisors was making him sick to his stomach and that he could no longer endure the abuse.

Annabel, who went full time in 1986, said his supervisors tried to get rid of him for several years by peppering his personnel file with reprimands.

Annabel filed a complaint in February against the city with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the investigation is expected to be completed next month.

If the investigation finds merit, the commission will file a lawsuit against the city. To win such a case, the EEOC must show that a reasonable person would find the work environment hostile and that the hostility was based on race.

City Manager Richard Witker said that Annabel was treated fairly but declined to discuss the case in depth. Commission officials declined to discuss the case.

Annabel cites instances such as his demotion from his driver's position in 1990 after a minor accident. Other drivers have had accidents without being demoted, he said.

He received a written reprimand for not collecting some palm fronds, even though the other men on the truck were not reprimanded and everyone was told by the driver to leave the fronds alone, he said.

Wanda Stimpson, business agent for the International Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers, which represents the city's garbage collectors, said she is convinced Annabel's supervisors were harassing him.

"People were told to jerk Jeff's chain," she said. "I definitely think he was treated unfairly."