By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
In 2016, near the tail end of October, Adam Latiker began his employment at Blain’s Farm and Fleet in Oak Creek Wisconsin. Initially, he worked only part time as a warehouse associate before inquiring if the store could hire him full time.
“Management gave me the run around, but inevitably found full time for me,” Latiker wrote in an email to the Milwaukee Courier, “but it was in another department; maintenance.”
Before working at Blain’s Farm and Fleet, Latiker had a different plan for his career trajectory. As a child, he attended Mother of Perpetual Help Elementary School, then Dominican High School and for a brief time Marquette University. Eventually, Latiker switched to MATC to earn a trade degree in welding.
According to Latiker, he was in the top 10% of his class at MATC. Although he loved welding, due to lack of job opportunities that were within a reasonable driving distance or not third shift, Latiker decided to pursue something else.
He landed the part-time job at Blain’s Farm Fleet, which turned full-time in April 2017 in maintenance.
As a person of color and mixed race (his father is black, and his mother is white), Latiker was very much aware of the other employees who were in the minority. In his opinion, the majority of the employees were white, only a handful weren’t, and it was the white employees who were in leadership positions.
When a year had passed, Latiker inquired again about a promotion and learned of a head position within maintenance which he applied for and received. In this new position, he planned to improve efficiency
Throughout his employment, he became acquainted with a female coworker.
“[We met] a month or so after I got hired,” he said. “And we became instant friends.”
According to Latiker, his only contact with her was when they were both working. He said she often talked to him about her personal life including topics such as her boyfriend.
“Every now and then, [she] would receive compliments from me, even received a small tray of cookies and a small little kitty trinket as a Christmas gift,” Latiker wrote, “but still maintaining professionalism.”
Throughout his employment with Blain’s Farm and Fleet, Latiker said he maintained a level of professionalism.
“I was not written up once,” he said.
Then, on Jan. 5, 2018, Latiker was called into the store manager’s office.
“Right away, I knew something was up,” he said.
For 30 minutes, an HR rep talked to and interrogated Latiker, and at the end, in “a state of distress” he signed a document admitting to everything and was told to clean out his locker. Unbeknownst to him, his employment had been officially terminated.
“I had a feeling that my race was an issue,” he said.
Latiker said the document stated that he knowingly harassed his co-worker and violated company policy. In response, he called HR, and applied for unemployment for which he received a letter saying he was “disqualified.”
Although he took it to court, Latiker received a letter from the judge stating he was, in fact, guilty of breaking the rules.
In the letter, which Latiker forwarded, it stated the employers illegal and sexual harassment policies. Per the letter, illegal harassment is “unwelcome conduct, whether verbal or physical or visual” and sexual harassment is, “welcome or unwelcome verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature…”.
His actions, which according to the letter also included a kiss on the cheek, regarding his female co-worker, were considered sexual harassment and in direct violation of the policy.
While Latiker searches for new employment, his situation asks for both employers and employees to be aware of their actions and the consequences that could follow.
Blain’s Farm and Fleet Corporate Headquarters did not return calls or messages for comment.