LANSING, Mich. – Six former employees of United Electrical Contractors filed a lawsuit against the Lansing-based company due to “rampant racism” allegedly experienced on the job.
The lawsuit accuses mid-to-high level management of racial harassment on job sites.
At a press conference Thursday, the former employees’ attorney Richard Mack mentioned examples of racial harassment one of his clients allegedly experienced on their first day at work.
“(The complainant’s boss) said, ‘Are you an Arab, Muslim or towel head?’ That’s your boss, first conversation on the job,” Mack said. “Of course, when (the complainant) complains, (the boss) says, ‘You should go back to your plantation,’ and then his boss says, ‘I’m going to get you off my job site.’”
One of the former employees, Gabriel Tavera, said that he would hear his coworkers and managers use racial slurs toward him and others every day.
“Calling me a ‘brown boy’ or the n-word, telling me to ‘go back to Mexico’ despite the fact that I was born in the United States,” Tavera said.
Marius Richardson, another former employee, said, “At one point in time a white coworker told me to hurry up or he would pull out his whip.”
All six of the men involved in the lawsuit said the company knew what was going on, but did nothing about it, and that’s why they filed the lawsuit.
“The justice we would like to get from this is that United Electrical Contractors be held accountable for letting their employees treat us with such harsh harassment,” said Eric Burch, another former employee.
UEC President Scott Flegler released the following statement regarding the lawsuit:
We have reviewed the complaint released today, which includes new, unfounded allegations as part of an ongoing harassment campaign by a union, designed to interfere with our company’s operations and relationships.
These claims had never previously been brought forward to anyone at our company. We take any claims of discrimination extremely seriously and have a track record of doing so. When these same plaintiffs filed allegations against us with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last year, we conducted a thorough, independent review, revealing nothing to substantiate those claims.
Notably, the EEOC has not yet even completed its review of the previously filed claims, yet these new allegations have nonetheless been publicly released by the union. This further establishes that the actual goal of today’s announcement was to harass and cause harm to our company.
Importantly, we are proud of our diverse and talented workforce. Diversity is one of our core values and key differentiators of our company, which is why our employees receive diversity training.
We appreciate the ongoing support of our customers, who trust the quality and reliability of our team, while respecting the values of our company.Scott Flegler
Jimmy Greene, CEO and president of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Michigan, released a statement calling the lawsuit bogus and the claims false.
“I’ve never heard anything remotely close to that. I do know one of the complainants and I’ve never heard that come out of their mouth,” Greene said. “I’ve never had it even cross my desk, not once.”
You can read his entire statement below.
Greene leads the diversity, equity and inclusion initiative in Michigan and is part of it on a national level, too, so he says that he takes racism very seriously.
“If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize, but I don’t think I am,” Greene said. “There’s a series of coincidences that people are asking me to believe that quite frankly, I am not going to believe.”
Attorney Robert Mack responded to Greene’s statement with the following statement:
It’s shockingly shameful but not surprising that Jimmy Greene would defend this obscenely racist and discriminatory behavior by United Electrical Contractors. The ABC press release never denies the racist conduct of managers and coworkers, but blindly praises UEC regardless of its racist antics.
Greene himself was caught on camera bragging to United Electrical workers about being able to “talk about Black shit, talk about Republican shit” in nonunion shops. In his statements to UEC workers, he is literally encouraging racial harassment within the work place, as a benefit for not working in a union shop. His endorsement of racial harassment is the video is similar to his support of racism in this press release.
Greene and ABC clearly don’t believe in creating a workplace that values diversity, where all people can feel safe and be treated with decency and respect. Greene should be standing with the workers, but instead he’s defending the racist management and employees of United Electrical Contractors. Shameful!Richard Mack
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