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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

Custodians sue MCO, charge bias in firings

Eight custodians fired from Medical College of Ohio Hospitals after they were accused of loafing on the job have filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Toledo.

The men, who are African American, allege the Medical College of Ohio singled them out because of their race, treating them differently than Caucasian employees.

The plaintiffs - Sean Hunter, Kenneth Hatley, Stanley Murphy, William Stenson, Loyse Taft Chatman, Craig Palmer, and Corey Young, all of Toledo, and Doug Chea of Columbus - filed the complaint on Wednesday. They are seeking in excess of $1 million each in compensatory and punitive damages.

The men were dismissed in July, 2003, after videotaping revealed they were using fitness equipment at the Morse Fitness Center while they were supposed to be working. The suit alleges the videotaping was done covertly for several weeks and that the videotapes were altered from their original form.

MCO spokesman Matt Lockwood said the cameras are part of the hospitals' security system and monitor cardiac patients using the facility.

R. Kevin Greenfield, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said Caucasian employees also were using the equipment in the fitness center, but were not terminated.

The men filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued a finding that probable cause existed that a claim could be made based on racial discrimination, Mr. Greenfield said.

Mr. Lockwood said the procedures taken to discipline and terminate the employees were consistent with state law. "They were simply not doing their jobs," he said.

The lawsuit was assigned to Judge David Katz.

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