Dallas Utility Workers Claim Racial Discrimination

The Dallas Water Department tolerates racial discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation, according to a new federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by 11 African-Americans, one Hispanic and one Asian-American employee.

“It’s business as usual. It’s a good old boy syndrome,” said employee Leroy White.

Among other things, the lawsuit cites a noose displayed in an employee’s car at the Southside Water Treatment Plant two years ago.

Dallas Utility Workers Claim Racial Discrimination
Dallas Utility Workers Claim Racial Discrimination

”Five days later he came with a bigger noose,” said employee Clement Bernard. “He stated it was because he thought I was wrong for making him take the noose out of his truck on city property.”

The city disciplined the employee with the noose and that employee later resigned.

In a prepared statement, city spokesman Frank Librio said the city does not tolerate discrimination.

“The City took corrective measures regarding these situations at the time the allegations were first reported. The City denies that it has engaged in any unlawful conduct,” he said.

The statement said a specific program was developed for the water department to avoid discrimination and a hostile work environment.

But the lawsuit claims discrimination still exists.

“These individuals have raised these complaints with the city of Dallas and with their employers for years,” attorney Jay Ellwanger said. “We’re asking that it stop. We’re asking that our clients be given damages.”

Get More:

Click here to view the lawsuit and click here to read the city’s response.

Employees Sue Dallas for Racism

Employees Sue Dallas for Racism: MyFoxDFW.com

DALLAS – From racial slurs to a hangman’s noose, 13 Dallas employees say they’ve had enough. The group has filed a federal lawsuit, which they say outlines a culture of outright racism.
The plaintiffs filed their suit Wednesday. They include black, Hispanic and Asian workers of Dallas Water Utilities.
The employees claim they were threatened, verbally harassed and intimidated by racist graffiti written on bathroom walls. There was also an incident involving a hangman’s noose dangling from a city vehicle, according to the lawsuit.
A statement from the city of Dallas said officials deny the unlawful conduct.
The city said some of the allegations date back seven years and corrective measures were taken then. The statement also said the Department of Justice declined to file a lawsuit in the case.
Watch FOX 4 Matt Grubs’ video story to hear from both the employees and a city spokesman.

Contractor at Airports Settles Suit in Bias Case

Published: March 12, 2008

DALLAS — Allied Aviation Services, which fuels planes at airports nationwide, agreed on Tuesday to pay $1.9 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit begun by 15 black and Hispanic employees at its Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport facility who said they had been forced to endure racial slurs and other harassment.

Matt Slocum/Associated Press: Eric Mitchel and Diana Ochoa spoke Tuesday in Dallas on the settlement of a discrimination lawsuit against Allied Aviation Services. Ms. Ochoa is the widow of Francisco Ochoa, a plaintiff

The company, which did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, also agreed to conduct sensitivity and diversity training for all of its employees in the United States for the next three years. The settlement was announced at a news conference outside the Dallas district office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had filed a suit on behalf of the workers.
The settlement is the largest race and national origin discrimination case ever resolved by the Dallas office, Suzanne M. Anderson, the agency’s supervisory trial lawyer, said.
“What made this case so repulsive was not just the egregious conduct against blacks and Hispanics by their co-workers but also management’s acquiescence to the harassment,” she said in a prepared statement.
The company could not be reached for comment at its headquarters in New York. An operator at its facility at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport said, “I’ve been instructed that there is no comment from this station.”
A former Dallas Cowboys running back, Eric Mitchel, began the lawsuit after finding his name and the names of four other black employees on a bathroom wall underneath the title “hit list,” which included a racial epithet.
He said at the news conference that he had reported the threat to the airport police but had been told by Allied management “if I didn’t like what was going on, I could leave.” It was one of many incidents that Mr. Mitchel said had caused him to compare the work environment at Allied to that of a modern-day plantation.
Other Allied employees cited a pattern of discrimination and civil rights violations. Ku Klux Klan membership cards were routinely brandished by white employees, and nooses and drawings of swastikas were commonplace, according to their suit. When boarding shuttles, Hispanics were told to ride in the back of the bus, it said.
Carl Gaines, a black employee, discovered racial slurs and other derogatory remarks on the fuel panel of an American Airlines jet he was servicing, the suit said. To his surprise, he realized that the epithets singled him out by name.
Francisco Ochoa, a Hispanic employee, went into a meeting with a supervisor to discuss the conditions, only to find himself depicted in a racially offensive cartoon on display under glass on the manager’s desk, according to the suit. The mental anguish so traumatized Mr. Ochoa, a former marine, that he was later hospitalized for two weeks, said Sara W. Kane, a lawyer who worked on the case. Mr. Ochoa died of cancer two years ago.
Legal work on the case began four years ago after Mr. Mitchel found the response from Allied management unacceptable. After seeking legal counsel from a lawyer, James A. Vagnini, he was joined by seven other employees as parties to the lawsuit. That number eventually grew to 15. Six still work for the company.
“This is certainly one of the most, if not the most egregious case we’ve ever seen,” said Ms. Kane, a partner with Mr. Vagnini at Valli Kane & Vagnini in Garden City, N.Y., which represented the employees along with DiNovo Price Ellwanger in Austin, Tex. “The level and the depth that management was involved sets it apart from all other cases.”
Ms. Kane added that once the commission had completed its investigation into the case, it brought its own lawsuit against Allied on behalf of the employees. “That almost never happens,” she said.
Allied Aviation Services fuels 1.8 million commercial flights and handles close to six billion gallons of jet fuel each year, according to its Web site. It has operations at 24 major airports in North America, the Caribbean and Latin America, including the New York area’s three main airports.

Former Simply Pasta waiter suing restaurant for racial discrimination

BY Thomas Zambito
Monday, May 4th 2009, 11:59 PM

DeCrescenzo for News Marcus Simmons was fired from Simply Pasta, a restaurant in Midtown, in July 2007. He is now suing the establisment, claiming other workers taunted him and another African American worker.

A black waiter says bosses at a midtown Italian eatery brushed him off when he complained that co-workers chanted racial epithets at him in Spanish.
Marcus Simmons is expected to sue Simply Pasta for racial discrimination Tuesday in Manhattan Federal Court.
Simmons, 28, of Brooklyn, says the chants occurred in April 2007 when he tried to intervene in a confrontation between Hispanic workers and the Theater District restaurant’s only other black employee.
“Mayate, mayate,” the Hispanic workers chanted, according to the lawsuit filed by lawyer James Vagnini.
The slang term roughly translates as insect and is used derogatorily to refer to dark-skinned people. Simmons considered it a substitute for the N-word.
“That word is very hateful,” Simmons said. “I was very upset. I took the picture because I knew no one would believe me. They tried to play it like I’m crazy.”
Months later, Simmons says he walked into the kitchen and, beneath a posting warning waiters that the kitchen was running out of “Seafood Ravioli,” was the phrase, “Rata Mayate.” “Rata” means rat.
Simmons snapped a photo on his cell phone and included a copy in his complaint.
He asked co-workers, “to stop calling anybody n—– in any language,” according to a complaint filed with the State Division of Human Rights.
After the comments persisted, Simmons says he confronted general manager Martin Eklund on July 23, 2007, about the alleged harassment.
Eklund responded by sending him home, according to Vagnini.
When Simmons came to work a few days later, he was told management thought he’d quit. He’s currently unemployed.
In response to the Human Rights complaint, Simply Pasta denied that “mayate” is a substitute for the N-word and says the bulletin board scrawl was quickly erased.
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