Black Ohio GM Employees File Lawsuit After Finding Nooses And ‘Whites Only’ Signs

Black Ohio GM Employees File Lawsuit After Finding Nooses And ‘Whites Only’ Signs

Several workers say the company failed to act when they complained about the racist environment.

Published January 18th

Nine Black employees at a General Motors plant in Toledo, Ohio, are filing a lawsuit against the company after being forced to work in a racist environment.

According to the lawsuit, nooses, "whites only" signs and use of N-word, were a few of the discriminatory practices that went on inside the company for years, WPXI.

Marcus Boyd (above left) and Derrick Brooks (above right) were supervisors on different shifts at GM's transmission plant in Toledo. While both men felt they were tough enough to handle anything, the alleged toxic work environment made them afraid to come to work.

"How rough and tough can you be when you got 11 to 12 people who want to put a noose around your neck and hang you till you're dead?" Brooks told WPXI.

When Brooks first saw a noose at his workplace in 2017, he reported it to upper management, who told him to investigate the matter himself by questioning his white employees.

"It felt like a slap in the face. It did, but I had to be professional," Brooks told WPXI.

The suit claims there were at least five nooses discovered at the factory in separate incidents as well as graffiti racial slurs. Employees say the words "whites only,” hand-drawn swastikas, and “n—r not allowed" were scribbled on the bathroom walls.

Both Brooks and Boyd felt stuck between choosing to leave their six-figure jobs or having to endure a workplace filled with racism and intimidation. Now, Brooks, Boyd and seven others have sued GM for allowing an "underlying atmosphere of violent racial hate and bullying," according to the lawsuit.

"When an employee who was under me, he told me that, back in the day, a person like me would have been buried with a shovel -- that was a death threat. And I was told to push that to the side," Boyd told WPXI. "He admitted to it and I was pulled to the side and (upper management) said, 'You know, if you want to build relationships here, just let things go. He'll be alright.'"

Brooks also noticed that he and the other Black workers were being called Dan.

"I thought they just, you know, mispronounced my name for Derrick. Then, later, I find out that DAN was an acronym for dumbass (racial slur)," Brooks told WPXI.

General Motors sent CNN a statement saying, "We treat any reported incident with sensitivity and urgency, and are committed to providing an environment that is safe, open and inclusive."

GM says that it held mandatory meetings and closed the plant for sensitivity training.

However, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission reported that in one of the mandatory meetings, a white supervisor said "too big of a deal" was being made of the nooses because "there was never a Black person who was lynched that didn't deserve it."

"The ultimate decision that was made is that GM did allow a racially hostile environment," Darlene Sweeney-Newbern, of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, told WPXI. "GM did not do very much at all or what they did do is not effective."

The lawsuit also alleges that the supervisor was never disciplined.

"General Motors is supposed to stand for something, right? That's the great American company. What are you doing about this?" Boyd told reporters.

While GM says it has not identified who is responsible for hanging the nooses and no one has been fired in those incidents, the company has reportedly dismissed some people at the Toledo plant.

Written by Rachel Herron

(Photo: WPXI)

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