Lawsuit: Black Woman Says a Former Habitat for Humanity Boss Called Her a ‘Shy Monkey’

A former Habitat for Humanity employee in Columbus, Mississippi, is suing the local office of the nonprofit after saying a manager called her a “shy monkey” and admitted to assigning less desirable jobs to Black employees.

Andrea Cureton, a Black woman, filed her suit Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi in Aberdeen, according to The Dispatch. 

Columbus-Lowndes Habitat for Humanity
A former Habitat for Humanity employee in Columbus, Mississippi, is suing the Columbus-Lowndes Habitat for Humanity location for alleged racial discrimination. (Photo by Facebook)

In the suit The Dispatch obtained a copy of, Cureton said she had to endure several acts of racial discrimination while working as a volunteer coordinator with the Columbus-Lowndes Habitat for Humanity.

Bryan Thomas, a spokesman for Habitat for Humanity International, said Monday the organization had no prior knowledge of the allegations or the suit filed against the Columbus-Lowndes Habitat for Humanity.

“We take the fair and equitable treatment of all people as a hallmark of our mission and view the alleged actions and statements very seriously,” Thomas said. “We have initiated our own review of the matter and will take appropriate actions based on our findings.”

Cureton said she was hired with the nonprofit in November 2015 and remembers being called a “shy monkey” the first time in February 2016.

Cureton said she asked, but the manager refused to stop using the phrase.

Cureton also accused the manager, identified as Abby Davis in a Starkville Daily News article, of calling another black employee “stinky” and saying a white woman in a relationship with a black man “was talking all ghetto.” 

Cureton even said she felt pressured to ignore disability discrimination, according to the newspaper.

She said when two disabled siblings were allowed to come into the store to volunteer, Davis informed Cureton “never to invite them back because they were a liability to the organization.”

Cureton said her complaints to the Executive Director Kathy Arinder largely went ignored.

Cureton said Arinder told her: “You’ve got Abby wrong, and if you are going to be like that then let’s just be professional and keep it at that.”

Cureton also said Arinder said, “I just hate to see black guys in Kroger looking at me like they want to steal my purse.”

Cureton said the next Black person Davis accused of stealing was her.

She denies the theft allegations but said in court documents the Starkville Daily News obtained that she resigned Feb. 22 because she feared being fired.

Since then, Cureton said in legal documents that the company’s board offered her a check for $877.

Cureton said she didn’t accept the money and is instead seeking reinstatement, back pay and compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by a jury, according to the newspaper. 

Tony Dunser, the local Habitat for Humanity’s board president, told Atlanta Black Star the $877 has nothing to do with the legal allegations.

He said he is still looking into the specifics but that the board is taking the allegations seriously.

“We’ve retained counsel and we’re answering to all the allegations,” Dunser said.

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