Intense publicity has been swirling this week over a federal civil-rights lawsuit against General Motors that makes disturbing claims of racial intimidation by employees inside an Ohio facility. The United Auto Workers released a general anti-discrimination statement after a CNN exposé featuring two former General Motors supervisors who allege widespread racism at the company's Toledo، Ohio، transmission plant.
"No UAW member should ever feel the sting of racism in the workplace،" the UAW said in the statement. "But the fact is، even in 2018، there are still members who are touched by unacceptable behavior. We take this seriously and our goal is to make all members feel safe and welcome in their workplace، always."
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in April on behalf of nine current and former black employees at the plant. It alleges wrongful termination and a failure to address civil rights violations. Two former employees who supervised shifts inside the plant، Marcus Boyd and Derrick Brooks، said to CNN that they were repeatedly harassed and threatened by white employees from the time they arrived in 2015 until they left the plant in 2018. Most of the other seven employees involved in the lawsuit، none of whom has spoken publicly، have worked at the Toledo plant for 30 or more years.
The major allegation is that three nooses "with intricately and carefully tied knots" were hung in the plant starting in March 2017. These were allegedly followed by one noose every month between April and June 2017، one of which was allegedly thrown at a black employee. In late June، the lawsuit alleges، GM investigated the noose incidents and suspended one employee who threw the noose for 30 days for "horseplay،" but، the lawsuit says، the company did nothing more. A GM spokesperson told CNN that the company closed the plant for a day during late June for related worker training.
The plaintiffs، who claim to have photo evidence of some of the allegations، also allege a startling array of "conduct that has spread like wildfire throughout the plant،" including workers wearing Nazi symbols under their uniforms، calling black employees "boy" and "monkey،" swastikas and stick figures with nooses on bathroom stalls، "whites only" signs outside bathrooms، and a repeated use of racial epithets by white employees. When certain employees told Boyd he should carry a gun to defend himself، GM provided security to escort Boyd to his car.
"GM did not take reasonable steps equivalent to the severity of unlawful activities so as to meet and remedy the actions،" the lawsuit said.
GM، while denying the majority of the plaintiffs' claims in a November 2018 filing، said it would not tolerate discrimination.
"We treat any reported incident with sensitivity and urgency، and are committed to providing an environment that is safe، open and inclusive،" the company said in a statement to the Toledo Blade newspaper. "General Motors is taking this matter seriously and addressing it through the appropriate court process."
The case، Huguely et al. v. General Motors، LLC، is pending a jury trial.