Sunday, April 25, 2010
Racial slurs and images of burning crosses at the workplace in 2010? It does not seem possible. After all, we are the Obama nation and change has finally happened.
Regrettably, this story out of East Texas proves that workplace discrimination is alive and well.
Last week, in a press conference launched by employees and civil rights advocates, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) unveiled a horrifying tale of black factory workers who reportedly were harassed with nooses, confederate flags and death threats. White employees who refused to take part in the racist activity were fired. Terms like “coon” and “colored boy” assaulted black employees as did images of swastikas while working at Turner Industries, a pipe and industrial metal company based out of Baton Rouge, La. Some even had their lives and the lives of their families threatened.
Based on the findings of the EEOC, current and former employees of Turner, their representatives, and company management are first required to sit down and reach a settlement; if that stalls, the agency promises the employees will have an option of filing a civil rights lawsuit. The EEOC began receiving complaints about Turner over a year ago but some claim Turner has a long history of abuse. In interviews conducted by the agency, some report incidents of racial discrimination and abuse as far back as 2006.
Civil rights leaders claim that East Texas has been a hotbed of this kind of activity for decades. Last month, eight employees had their complaints upheld by the EEOC as their attorneys have identified harassment, discrimination and threatening behavior in other Turner locations throughout Texas. Turner management, according to the complaints, repeatedly limited blacks to low-wage positions while promoting less qualified white workers. Lawyers and representatives for the EEOC conclusively found that Turner did nothing to stop the discrimination or to protect their employees.
Turner has issued a statement via their website to their employees that states the company does not agree with the EEOC’s findings at the Paris, Texas, facility. Furthermore, Turner is quick to note that they have complied with federal laws concerning workplace diversity for many years. In a note to their clients, Turner assures their customers that the company will cooperate with the EEOC’s demands.