SRS Sign, Centerra-SRS Lawsuit

An entrance to the Savannah River Site, a 310 square-mile nuclear complex south of Aiken.

An African American woman from Georgia is suing her former employer, the Savannah River Site security contractor, for racial discrimination and unfair dismissal, according to federal court documents.

Marcialena Tremble Brown on July 22 filed a complaint against Centerra-SRS, alleging the longtime contractor preferentially treated a white woman for the same violation that led to her termination.

"I felt that the company's decision was unfair and discriminatory," Brown wrote in a notice to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Brown is seeking $500,000 in punitive damages and a $3 million compensatory award – she listed distress, irritability and mental suffering on her handwritten court filing.

On May 2, 2015, Brown left her M4 rifle unattended in a women's restroom for about five minutes, according to her commission notice. Eighteen days later, her employment was terminated. A "major safety violation" is cited in a commission comparison sheet, which was also included in the lawsuit documents.

Late last year, Brown learned that a white officer "committed the same offense" – leaving a Glock handgun, among other things, unattended in a unisex restroom – and was not fired, according to the commission notice. It was a relative "slap on the hand," according to Brown.

Brown's charge of discrimination was not filed with the EEOC in a timely manner, which led to the commission closing the file. The commission issued a right-to-sue notice, which is standard practice.

Brown was a 16-year employee of Centerra-SRS, according to court documents.

Centerra-SRS, a subsidiary of Centerra Group, is charged with protecting the site and its personnel, as well as conducting police work and investigations, among other things.

The paramilitary team was recently awarded $3.1 million for "excellent" job performance, according to U.S. Department of Energy evaluation forms

Brown is seeking a jury trial.

"I personally want to know why I was terminated from the company for unattended weapon while another person committed the same offense as I and did not get terminated," Brown wrote in response to questions. "Through the eyes of the jury, did the company make the right decision in discipline both personnel committing the same act."

A spokesperson for Centerra-SRS on Monday said the team had not yet been served. Parties rarely comment on litigation.

Colin Demarest is the government and Savannah River Site reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin