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Workers Say Boss Gave Them Marked Ballots

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) - Five black employees of Birmingham-based Altec Industries say the company owner told them to vote Republican, and gave them pre-marked ballots during a visit by Sen. Jeff Sessions. The workers add, in separate federal complaints, that when Barack Obama was elected president, "an employee drew cross hairs or a target on a picture of President Obama and posted it in the workplace."

In their discrimination complaints, all five employees claim they were "subjected to different terms and conditions of employment because of their race," including denial of promotions and training. They say they were given a different dress code than white workers and denied breaks that white employees enjoyed.

On its company website, Altec describes itself as "a leading provider of products and services to the electric utility, telecommunications and contractor markets. We provide products and services in over 100 countries throughout the world."

Plaintiff Australia Harris claims that "In or around October 2008, Senator Jeff Sessions came to the facility where plaintiff was employed and talked to the employees about voting Republican. Plaintiff and other employees were informed they had to attend the rally with Senator Sessions. In addition, the owner of the company informed the employees they should vote Republican and gave the employees pre-marked ballots."

Harris claims that when he wore an Obama shirt after the presidential election, a white co-worker told him to "take that damn shirt off." He says the co-worker told him that the "O" on his shirt "was the perfect circle for a cross hair. I can reach you from 500 yards away," and added, "I'm not kidding."

Plaintiff Charles Nelson says Altec did not stop white employees from wearing "racially offensive" Confederate flag insignia on their clothing, but he says Altec "condoned and tolerated the racial harassment" and "has a habit and/or practice of discrimination against African Americans."

After complaining about the discrimination, Miracle Walters, Shantavia Brown, Derrick McDaniel and Nelson say they were all fired due to "downsizing," and some were not allowed to return to their offices to collect personal belongings.

Harris says he was not fired, but was given a more demanding job after his complaints.

The plaintiffs seek lost wages and punitive damages for racial discrimination, retaliation, hostile workplace, and emotional distress.

They are represented by Cynthia Forman Wilkinson of Birmingham.

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