Lawsuit: Baltimore County employee routinely used racial slurs, harassed employees while working at landfill

A former Baltimore County landfill employee is suing the county, alleging his boss repeatedly used the n-word, made inappropriate comments about his relationship with a white female employee and ultimately transferred him from his position in retaliation for him filing a complaint.

Jonathan Gwynn, a black man who worked at a county landfill from September 2005 through March 2014, alleges that his boss, James Dawson, “routinely” used racist language and “made derogatory racial jokes and slurs about black people” while he was the acting landfill manager in 2012 and 2013.


In addition, Gwynn claims that Dawson, who is white, told a white female employee Gwynn was dating “not to date [Gwynn] because [Gwynn] was African-American.” The woman is referred to by her initials “D.G.” in the complaint.

“Landfill Manager Dawson shortly after insulted [Gwynn] for dating a white woman and humiliated him, by making lewd comments to [Gwynn] in front of D.G.,” the lawsuit reads.


About four months after he filed a human resources complaint alleging the racist behavior in December 2013, Gwynn claims, he was transferred to work at a county facility in Glen Arm in March 2014, “stripped of his supervisory role, deprived of overtime opportunity, and lost around ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in total overtime earnings during 2014 through 2015.”

The lawsuit claims Dawson was temporarily suspended, but brought back to the landfill in a supervisory role in 2014, where he is still employed today.

Baltimore County records show Dawson was originally hired by the county in 1989.

County spokesman Sean Naron wrote in an email that Dawson is still currently employed as a landfill manager and makes a salary of $91,606 a year.

He added that county officials had not been served the complaint, but that the county “takes any claim of discrimination and harassment seriously and remains committed to providing all County employees with a respectful work environment.”

Attempts to reach Dawson were unsuccessful.

The lawsuit notes that police and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated the claims and, in an exhibit attached to the complaint, the commission found Gwynn “was subjected to racial harassment.”

The EEOC also found that Dawson was “involuntarily transferred ... in retaliation for complaining of racial and sexual harassment.”

The suit claims the county had years to respond to the EEOC’s charge and request for conciliation but did never did so.

“For example in a Nov. 9, 2018, letter from the EEOC to [Gwynn], the EEOC Director Rosemarie Rhodes acknowledges the conciliation opportunity and dialogue and remarked ‘efforts to conciliate your charge have been unsuccessful,’” the suit reads.

Gwynn’s attorney, Gregg Mosson, wrote in the lawsuit that he found at least one other employee who claims Dawson “was a known racist against black people.”

In a 2017 affidavit, Ann Dixon, a white female equipment operator at the landfill from 2007 through 2013, wrote that Dawson regularly disparaged black employees and “also demeaned women regularly.”


“Mr. Dawson used the [the n-word] daily. He called Antoine Gwynn, a black co-worker, that word once to his face and I heard and saw it,” she wrote, adding he also used offensive language to refer to women.

The lawsuit claims the landfill’s workforce is largely white, with “no Hispanic employees, no Asian employees, around three total African-American employees including [Gwynn], and the remainder appeared Caucasian and/or white.”

Dawson and other employees worked with inmates from Maryland state prisons “and/or” Baltimore County jails, the lawsuit claims, who also complained about racism at the landfill.

The lawsuit claims the inmates complained about racist language at the landfill “around 2011 and/or 2012” and that, while police investigated the allegations through 2013, “nothing was done.”

Gwynn claims the county covered up the inmates’ previous complaints, which the suit assertsshows "a motive to cover up, and retaliatory motive against [Gwynn], because Defendant continued this pattern of cover-up in how it handled [Gwynn’s] complaint with silence, demotion, humiliation, and cover-up.”

Dixon claims that he would approach her about talking to the inmates, writing that Dawson “meant to imply and question why, as a white women, I would be talking to black men.”

“He asked me several times about this during my employment at the landfill,” she wrote. “I told him to drop it.”

The lawsuit claims the county facilitated a “racially hostile work environment” and seeks that the county pay damages and fees as the court sees fit.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun