Lawsuit claims GM plant employees were subject to racist remarks & acts

TOLEDO, Ohio (WXYZ) - Eight employees at a General Motors plant in Toledo, Ohio, have filed a federal lawsuit alleging they were subject to racist remarks and acts in the last couple of years.

According to the lawsuit, there were several incidents that involved nooses being found at the plant or being thrown at African American workers.

On March 22, 2017, the lawsuit alleges that three nooses were found in the Casing Machine Department on lanyards at about 11:30 p.m.

Then on April 25, 2017, the lawsuit says another noose was found hanging in the Assembly Room between the first and second shifts. Another was found against a machine on May 2, 2017.

Then, on June 2, 2017, the lawsuit alleges a White employee threw a rope that looked like a noose at an African-American employee but says GM determined it was “horseplay” and put the employee under the horseplay rule for 30 days.

According to the lawsuit, the African-American workers also dealt with vilification and racially hostile remarks and epithets within the last four years.”

The lawsuit lists 23 different incidents which include swastikas being painted on restroom stalls, stick figures drawn with nooses around their necks in stalls, calling African-American employees “monkeys,” African-American employees being warned because a White employee’s dad was “in the Ku Klux Klan,” a “Whites only” sign hanging from a bathroom stall and much more.

The lawsuit also mentions that a White female dating an African-American who ran for union office had her election posters vandalized with racial slurs and drawings.

According to the lawsuit, GM failed “to take prompt corrective action” about the situations that were reported and caused each of the employees to fear for their safety. 

The lawsuit also states that in March, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission found on behalf of some of the plaintiffs that there was “probable cause that GM engaged in unlawful discriminatory practices.

In a statement, General Motors said: 

"Every day, everyone at General Motors is expected to uphold a set of values that are integral to the fabric of our culture. Discrimination and harassment are not acceptable and in stark contrast to how we expect people to show up at work. We treat any reported incident with sensitivity and urgency, and are committed to providing an environment that is safe, open and inclusive. General Motors is taking this matter seriously and addressing it through the appropriate court process

The company also added that plant leadership looked into the allegations in 2017 and investigated, saying they “issued a strong communication to all employees making it clear that any type of harassing or threatening conduct is not tolerated.”

GM also said they continued to reinforce it through all-employee meetings, smaller team meetings, and also conducted anti-discrimination training for all employees in conjunction with the UAW. 

“This training emphasizes the company’s strong anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, and instructs employees to report and react to incidents using multiple tools available to all,” the company said in a statement.

The letter dated April 12, 2017, is below.

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