LANCASTER – A Black former termite inspector at a Lancaster company has settled a lawsuit he filed against his ex-employer in which he alleged his white boss “terrorized” him on the job because of his race and threatened she would kill him without anyone ever knowing how it happened.
A lawyer for plaintiff Troy Fontenette filed court papers on Sept. 28, 2022, with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael L. Stern stating that her client’s case was resolved against Clark Pest Control Inc., his former boss, Kathy Lowe, and Michael Clark, the company’s chief financial officer. No terms were divulged.
Fontenette also maintained he suffered gender discrimination and retaliation, and that he was wrongfully fired in 2019 for complaining about his alleged disparate treatment. Fontenette, a 58-year-old Palmdale resident, alleged in his court papers that Lowe once told him, “I have guns, and I know how to use them.”
In their court papers, Clark Pest Control attorneys denied Fontenette’s allegations and said any actions taken against him were out of “business necessity.”
Clark Pest Control is a family-run business with family members in key positions, according to Fontenette, who was hired as a termite inspector at the Lancaster location, where there were only two Black employees, the lawsuit stated. Lowe “terrorized” him with threats of physical violence that were ignored by other bosses at the company, the lawsuit alleged. Lowe once told Fontenette in the presence of another boss, “I will kill you, and no one will know how it happened,” Fontenette claimed in the lawsuit.
Lowe also told Fontenette, “I will drop kick you in the head,” the suit alleged. Fontenette said he was in his office with a co-worker one day when Lowe walked in and began arguing with him.
“Suddenly, and without provocation, Lowe grabbed a three-inch metal rod used for termite treatment and, pounding it from one hand to the other hand like a police officer wielding a baton, she advanced on the plaintiff as if she was going to strike him with the rod,” the suit alleged.
At times Lowe lifted her fists toward Fontenette like a boxer and would “jerk forward in a fighting stance,” according to the complaint, which alleged Lowe often talked about her hunting trips, the animals she had killed and the men she had “beaten up.”
In May 2019, Lowe accosted the plaintiff while he was washing his truck, then took the wash bucket out of his hand and put it in a supply closet, the suit alleged. Fontenette went and got the bucket and began walking, but Lowe charged into the warehouse, blocked his path and refused his requests that she move, according to the plaintiff. As other employees watched, Fontenette told Lowe she was preventing him from doing his job, the suit alleged. Lowe stepped aside, but later walked up to the sink while he filled his bucket, yanked it from him and spilled water on his clothing and shoes, the suit stated.
Fearing the escalation of Lowe’s alleged aggression, Fontenette filed an internal complaint with Clark Pest Control in which he described the incidents with Lowe and asked for an investigation, the suit stated. In response, Clark Pest Control put Fontenette on administrative leave, the suit stated. The CFO transferred Lowe to a different location, but did not discipline or fire her, the suit stated.
In late June 2019, Michael Clark told Fontenette he would have to travel to Bakersfield, 90 miles from the plaintiff’s home, for additional training even though his past training took place in local offices, the suit stated. A few days later, the CFO, upset that Fontenette missed a training session, became angry at the plaintiff, ordered him to return his equipment and uniforms and claimed Fontenette resigned, the suit alleged.
Fontenette accepted his termination on July 6, 2019, and told Clark he believed the company had not provided him a safe work environment and retaliated after he complained about discriminatory acts against him, the lawsuit stated.
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