Former Asplundh employees say foreman pulled AR-15 on them at job site

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ROANOKE, Va. Two African-American men are suing the company they used to work for, saying their boss pointed an AR-15 at them on the job.

In December 2014, Alvin Haynes was working for Asplundh Tree Removal Service in Roanoke. He'd been there nearly five years working his way up the chain of command.
"I got along with everybody," he said.

But quickly, his career as a site foreman came to an end in what he says was a racially charged threat of violence. It began he says when another African-American worker was asked to put a dirty rope in his mouth by their boss, a general foreman.

"You're going to ask a black guy to do a rope trick?" he said. "I didn't understand. I walked away."

The next day, that worker, Clayton James, told Haynes the supervisor wanted to see him.

"And I quote, 'That he has something for me the next time I get smart with him,'" he said. "So I walked up to his truck. I said, 'Clayton says you have something for me.' He reached inside his truck, pulled out an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon and pointed it at my chest."

Those details are included in a civil lawsuit recently filed in federal court. Haynes and James are suing Asplundh for racial discrimination and violating the Civil Rights Act. Their lawyer is Tommy Strelka.

"This is what we can do," he said. "We can try to hold people accountable."

That's what Haynes tried to do before the lawsuit. He filed a grievance with Asplundh, but was shocked when the supervisor was only given a written warning for what was called a "practical joke." He believes there was retaliation, a random drug test, which he failed for marijuana and then was fired.

Nothing prohibits drug use in Asplundh's employee handbook except immediately before or during work, something he says he didn't do. Haynes spent nine months looking for another job before being hired in Roanoke. James moved to Washington, D.C. for work.

Asplundh wouldn't talk to WDBJ7 about the lawsuit. Through email, questions were sent to a corporate communications representative about the lawsuit. She could only confirm it is ongoing litigation and had no comment.

"To me, Asplundh acted like there was no problem," he said. "That he didn't do nothing wrong. Because they never did anything."