LANSING, Mich. – Six former employees of United Electrical Contractors filed a lawsuit against the Lansing-based company over alleged “creeping racism” at work.
The lawsuit accuses middle to high management of racial harassment on construction sites.
At a press conference Thursday, former employees’ attorney Richard Mack mentioned instances of racial harassment one of his clients allegedly experienced on his first day on the job.
“(The plaintiff’s boss) said, ‘Are you Arab, Muslim or napkin-head?’ It’s your boss, first conversation at work,” 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 make you leave my site’.”
One of the former employees, Gabriel Tavera, said he would hear his colleagues and managers use racial slurs towards 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 a white co-worker told me to hurry up or he’d pull out his whip.
The six men involved in the lawsuit said the company knew what was going on but did nothing about it, and that’s why they sued.
“The justice we would like to see from this is that United Electrical Contractors be held accountable for letting its 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 unsubstantiated 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 been presented to anyone in our company. We take any allegation of discrimination very seriously and we usually do. When these same complainants filed allegations against us with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last year, we conducted a thorough and independent review, finding nothing to support those allegations.
Notably, the EEOC has yet to even complete its review of the previously filed claims, but these new allegations have nonetheless been made public by the union. It further establishes that the real purpose of today’s announcement was to harass and harm our business.
Most importantly, we are proud of our diverse and talented workforce. Diversity is one of our core values and key business differentiators, which is why our employees receive diversity training.
We appreciate the continued support of our customers, who trust the quality and reliability of our team, while respecting the values of our company.
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 close to that. I know one of the plaintiffs and I’ve never heard that come out of their mouth,” Greene said. “I never made it cross my desk, not once.”
You can read his full statement below.
Greene leads the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative in Michigan and is also part of it nationally, so he says he takes racism very seriously.
“If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize, but I don’t think I’m wrong,” Greene said. “There’s a series of coincidences that people ask me to believe that frankly, I’m not going to believe.”
Attorney Robert Mack responded to Greene’s statement with the following statement:
It is shockingly shameful but not surprising that Jimmy Greene is defending this obscenely racist and discriminatory behavior by United Electrical Contractors. The ABC press release never denies the racist conduct of managers and colleagues, but blindly praises the UEC, whatever its racist antics.
Greene himself was filmed bragging to United Electrical workers that he could “talk black shit, talk Republican shit” in non-union stores. In his statements to UEC workers, he literally promotes racial harassment in the workplace, as a perk 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 everyone can feel safe and be treated with decency and respect. Greene should stand with the workers, but instead he defends the racist management and employees of United Electrical Contractors. Shameful!
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