A former employee of Texas Energy Service is suing the company under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging it fired him because he is black.
Rodney A. Simmons began working for Texas Energy in 2005 as a tractor-trailer driver working out of the company’s Goliad truck yard. Simmons’ lawsuit alleges thatoften used racial slurs, such as referring to him as “boy.” He also accuses the Alice-based company of assigning him a disproportionate number of labor-intensive and late-day jobs.
In addition, Simmons claims the company often asked him to violate the hours-of-service rules mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Those rules say commercial vehicle operators may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
The coup de grace occurred in February 2010. Simmons’ lawsuit alleges that he was fired for refusing to take on an additional assignment at the end of a shift. At the time, Simmons was already one hour over his 14-hour limit. He claims a dispatcher told him he had to haul fresh water to a drilling rig near Kenedy.
According to Simmons, management had already asked three other nonblack employees to make the run, but they had refused. Simmons refused, too. That’s when he says Texas Energy fired him.
In April 2010, Simmons filed complaints with the EEOC and the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights division.
Texas Energy argued that Simmons had agreed to take the additional assignment and had started the process of loading his truck. However, the company alleges, Simmons abandoned his job after getting a personal call on his cell phone.
Simmons’ failure to complete the assignment, the company claimed, violated its policy prohibiting disobedience of orders and leaving the workplace too early. Thus, according to Texas Energy, Simmons’ termination was justified.