MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Mooresville-based Lowe's is facing a blockbuster race discrimination lawsuit from a high-ranking former executive. The home improvement company vigorously denied the charges on Friday.
The lawsuit says former Chief Consumer Officer Michael Jones was targeted by executives after raising "concerns about the firm culture" and the "inclusion" of minorities in 2015.
The suit says he spoke out last year "about the treatment of several other African-American" employees and was fired.
In fact, the suit claims "Jones is one of a series of African-American employees at the vice president level or higher ... terminated disproportionately to their white counterparts in recent years."
The court document suggests that Jones missed out on a nearly $12.5 million severance package because of his early termination. It also says Jones was a top performer in his role with the company.
Jones was described as a rising star in a Lowe's press release in 2014.
Financial records from 2015 show Jones was paid more than $4.9 million in annual salary and stock options. He reported directly to Lowe's CEO Robert Niblock.
A Lowe’s press release from October 2016 said Jones was "leaving to pursue new opportunities," but Channel 9 discovered there was more to the story when conducting a court record search on Thursday.
Lowe's denied all of the allegations in a lengthy statement released to Channel 9.
An official told us 19 percent of its top executive team are minorities.
"Lowe's takes great pride in being an inclusive organization, whereby it values the contributions and perspectives of every employee, regardless of race,” the official said. “Any suggestion that Lowe's or any individual executive at Lowe's discriminated against Mr. Jones because of his race is completely unfounded and irresponsible."
The statement from Lowe's goes on to say that Jones demanded an unreasonable payout from Lowe's and that he threatened the company with the lawsuit.
Channel 9 also found another lawsuit against Lowe's filed this month by a different employee that claims age discrimination. That lawsuit claims that Jones was the one discriminating during his time as a Lowe's executive.
Jones' attorney declined to comment on either case.
These lawsuits come during an already rough week for Lowe's. On Tuesday, it laid off 525 employees, including 430 from the Mooresville headquarters. The company's earnings and revenue have recently been below expectations. Its next earnings report comes out Wednesday.
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