Three Black former Kraft Heinz employees at a plant in Tulare, California, are suing the company for $30 million over alleged routine racial harassment by former co-workers and supervisors.
According to CNN, the plaintiffs claim their former co-workers left notes in their lockers containing the n-word and once threatened to kill them if they didn’t quit.
Attorneys for Alex Horn, Lance Aytman, and Keith Hooker filed a lawsuit in the US Eastern District Court of California on Thursday (August 19), CNN reports.
Their complaint claims the three men were subjected to "a pattern of harassing and discriminatory behavior based upon their race" over the course of several years. The Kraft Heinz Foods factory is based in Tulare, a predominately white and Latinx community located 52 miles southeast of Fresno.
Notes reading “no n*****s as coordinators” and “quit or die n****r” were discovered in lockers, according to the complaint. Swastikas were also drawn on lockers of several Black employees.
"The Tulare Plant was rife with anti-Black slurs, innuendos, threats, and discrimination," the lawsuit said, according to CNN. "The anti-Black abuse came from peers and supervisors, who controlled whether plaintiffs would receive promotions, transfers, and raises. Not surprisingly, the supervisors passed over plaintiffs in favor of non-Black employees."
The plaintiffs allege that they were told by managers "to keep their heads down or else they could join the unemployment line." Additionally, the suit alleges the company's corporate office avoided any investigation of what plaintiffs called the “Tulare plant's rampant racism.”
The suit claims Hooker quit his job in May 2018 after serving 22 years at the company after the death threats were levied. Horn and Aytman began working at the plant in 2011 and were fired in 2019 for “pretextual ground,” according to the complaint.
A Kraft Heinz spokesperson said the allegations are several years old and were investigated as soon as the company was made aware of them. The company did not disclose the results of that investigation.
"We undertook an extensive investigation, including cooperating with law enforcement, to ensure that any behavior that violated our policies, if uncovered, was put to an end," the company said in a statement, according to CNN. "Whenever a serious allegation such as this is made, we take immediate and swift action, including conducting a thorough investigation and implementing corrective actions if behaviors contradictory to our values are found."