Class of Workers Alleges Racism in Texas | Courthouse News Service
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Class of Workers Alleges Racism in Texas

MARSHALL, Texas (CN) - In a federal class action, more than 230 black workers accuse Turner Industries of running a racist workplace, where a black worker was hung in effigy, black workers are subject to "prolific use of the word 'nigger,'" nooses are hung around the workplace and bathrooms are defaced with graffiti depicting lynchings.

Turner makes and sells heavy industrial equipment.

The 374-page class action contains a welter of alarming allegations.

The class claims that in response to discrimination charges by two Turner Industries employees, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded in March 2010 "that black workers were denied promotions and disciplined more harshly than whites, and that managers at the plant were not only aware of a hostile environment, they also targeted workers who complained and disciplined white workers who opposed the harassment," according to the complaint.

After dozens of newspapers and all major Dallas TV networks ran a story on the EEOC ruling, and Turner Industries itself wrote a letter about the ruling and posted it to its company website, "hundreds of current and former Turner employees began contacting plaintiffs' counsel to report similar experiences of racial discrimination," the class says.

"Employees at Turner have faced racial discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment for many years," the class claims. "They have faced racial demarcations such as: 'nigger,' 'colored,' 'coon,' swastikas, drawings of nooses hanging around the necks of black people, racist jokes, confederate flags, and Aryan Brotherhood symbols (including 'KKK' and lightning bolts, a symbol known to be used by the KKK)." (Parentheses in original.)

For example, the complaint states: "In 2009, a bus full of Turner workers traveled over 200 miles from Lake Charles, Louisiana to a worksite known as the Marathon Plant. When they arrived, a white supervisor at the plant, Willie Hunt, separated the workers by race. He proceeded to give the white workers assignments. He ordered the black workers to go back on the bus and to leave the plant. No factor other than race mattered. The black workers were replaced with white workers who were brought in for the job."

The complaint continues: "Black female employees at Turner sites were prevented from using interior restrooms, but were instead required to use the outdoor portable restrooms with the men. White female Turner employees were permitted to use the interior bathrooms.

"White supervisors refused to allow black employees to take time off when there was a death in the employee's immediate family.

"Black employees were forced to do the most dangerous work that white employees refused to complete, despite the fact that the black workers had often been hired for a completely unrelated task.

"Black employees with decades of experience and relevant certifications were passed over for jobs and promotions that were instead handed to White men straight out of high school. On one occasion, a white man walked out of Turner's employment office and said to a group of prospective black employees, 'Why are they telling you all they have no work, when they have jobs for Whites?'"

Turner Industries has plants in Port Allen, Sulphur and New Orleans, Louisiana; Houston, Beaumont, Corpus Christi and Paris, Texas; and Decatur, Alabama. Its headquarters are in Baton Rouge.

The class sued Turner Industries Group LLC and Turner Industries LLC "seeking damages ... for acts of intentional discrimination based on gender, race, color, as well as for acts of retaliation."

The class seeks injunctive relief including "training on the subject of employment discrimination for all Turner employees," and "diversity training for all Turner managers conducted by reputable outside vendors."

In addition, it wants the company to hire human resources managers for all its job sites, supervisory discipline, including termination, for any manager who engages in unlawful discrimination, "all promotional opportunities posted on all employee bulletin boards," and court monitoring to ensure the company complies with the injunction.

The class seeks punitive damages, and lost pay they would have received if not for Turner Industries' discrimination. They also seek a restraining order to keep Turner from retaliating against them for participating in the litigation.

They are represented by Eric Albritton of Longview, Texas.

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