The owner of a West Donegal Township-based insulation company has denied all allegations of racial discrimination in a response to a suit by a former employee.
Christopher M. Shaffer of Middletown filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court, Eastern District, against Appalachian Insulation Supply, on Oct. 5, according to court documents.
A response was filed with the court by attorneys Amy L. Groff and C. Grainger Bowman from K&L Gates of Harrisburg. It says “people of color were and are employed by the company.”
Appalachian Insulation Supply is headquartered at 22 Black Hawk Lane, Elizabethtown, with branches in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Ohio and Tennessee.
Shaffer, in a complaint filed by State College attorney Joseph C. Korsak, said he was fired as the company’s human resources manager for refusing to fire a black employee.
Shaffer said the company violated the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which prohibits “certain practices of discrimination because of race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age or national origin.” He is asking a jury to award him $400,000 in compensatory damages and $50,000 in back pay, plus punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
The case was reviewed by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which issued a “right to sue” letter allowing the case to advance to court. A spokeswoman for the commission declined to comment on the case.
Attorneys on both sides of the complaint did not respond to requests for comment left Monday, Oct. 30.
Shaffer was hired in August 2014 as human resources manager for the company.
He alleges that CEO William Brinser Jr. “refused to permit people of color to be employed by the company” and used derogatory words to describe black and Hispanic people.
Shaffer was fired in January 2016, the complaint states, after he refused Brinser’s order to fire a black driver at the South Carolina branch for “no purpose … other than the color of his skin.”
The company’s response says Brinser “had ample reason to terminate (Shaffer’s) employment and terminated his employment for entirely legitimate business reasons.”
Further, although acknowledging that the South Carolina employee “is a black man,” the company denies “that he was qualified and that he was hired.”
The man received only a conditional offer of employment, the document states, which was rescinded “because he did not pass all pre-employment tests.”
Shaffer’s suit said the driver did pass all pre-employment tests.
Also according to the defendant’s response, representatives of Appalachian Insulation Supply “acted in good faith and did not act in a discriminatory or retaliatory manner,” and “any damages suffered by (Shaffer) are the result of his own actions or failure to act and are not the result of any improper conduct” on the part of the company.
The response says Shaffer failed to exhaust all avenues for dispute resolution or arbitration with the company. He has acted in bad faith, the document alleges, and has not acted in a timely manner to seek redress.
His right to relief is also cut off, the document states, because of “one or more acts of misconduct” committed by Shaffer that would be a basis for his termination.