PITTSBURGH (CN) - Lord Corp. tried to head off discrimination complaints by warning staff that costly litigation could affect their salaries, a federal action alleges.
Brandon Jones and Chris Giles filed suit Tuesday against their longtime employer Lord, an adhesive manufacturer that reports $850 million in annual sales.
The men say that white hourly employees outnumber black workers like themselves 30:1, and that "the Caucasian employees at Lord Corporation felt comfortable voicing their racially intolerant views in a variety of forms including in racially hostile bathroom graffiti, (writings such as 'kill all niggers,'') in their mode of dress (clothes with representations of the confederate flag) and in racially hostile comments and 'jokes,' (such as cartoons stating, 'don't relax around blacks'), all of which was commonplace at Lord." (Parentheses in complaint.)
After the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen in Florida, Jones and Giles allegedly found a packet of Skittles and bottle of tea taped to a workplace wall.
Giles says he even bought a bulletproof vest in fear for his life amid harassment from a white co-worker he identifies only as "Mike." Giles says Mike stopped working for Lord, but the threats and harassment continued.
Meanwhile supervisor Pat Mahon told Giles he was a "proud redneck" and invited him to "hang in the woods," according to the complaint.
Giles says Mahon lives in Cambridge Springs, Pa., "a town with a white supremacist reputation." Giles allegedly reported Mahon's harassment to the plant manager, and Mahon was fired after Giles contacted the CEO of the company, the complaint says.
Racism in the workplace allegedly continued, however, and Jones and Giles say they were blamed by co-workers for having to attend discrimination-training sessions.
At one session, the human resources manager "discouraged employees from reporting harassment, stating that a complaint to the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could 'potentially cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation which would in turn affect the way we pay you guys,'" the complaint states.
Jones and Giles say another of their co-workers printed out silhouetted shooting targets and told Giles: "Just so you know, people practice on those sheets because we only plan on shooting black people."
Giles and Jones seek damages for a racially hostile work environment and retaliation. They are represented by Rebecca Houlding of the Law Offices of Joshua Friedman.
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