A stuffed monkey hanging from the ceiling in the shipping department at Univar USA’s Dallas distribution chemical facility is part of the evidence two Dallas men are providing in their lawsuit alleging racial harassment by some co-workers.
"I just want to be treated fairly and everyone else does,” said Raymond Forman, 42, who sued Univar USA, his employer last month. “We're not asking for any special privileges, any special advances. We work for everything we do there. Give us a chance to advance through the company."
He and Kethenus Gill filed a federal lawsuit against Univar USA, Inc. last month alleging they have been subjected to racial graffiti, epithets, and were denied promotions unlike their white colleagues.
“When I first got there, they were straight up using the N word,” said Gill, 40. “I was young. I kept my head down. Did my work. I tried to pay my bills."
The two men unload and drive chemicals to customers at Univar’s facility near Plano Road and LBJ Freeway. It is dangerous work, they said, but not as worrisome as threats they say they face from some of their white co-workers.
"They're wearing button downs and khakis. They might even ask you 'How are you doing? How's your family doing?' But you're not getting a promotion. You're not going to get treated equally. And if you sound out, you're in trouble,” explained Gill.
According to the lawsuit, “The men’s bathroom stalls depicted, among other things, the derogatory terms: ‘N****r,’ ‘N***as,’ ‘Rag Head,’ ‘Blacks are monkeys,’ ‘I hate N*****s.’”
In addition, Forman and Gill said, they saw a stuffed animal monkey twice hung from the ceiling in the shipping department.
"First time I saw it I was like 'Wow. Customers come in here. Customers see that. That's what disappointed me. This is a company I grew up with. I've been working here since I was 22. How does this make us look to our black customers? Our minority customers,” asked Gill. "It was in plain sight.”
"Nobody got in trouble for the hanging of the monkey. Nobody got in trouble for the graffiti. You report this stuff time and time again to management and they do nothing about it. Absolutely nothing," said Forman.
"It is a slap in their face and a reminder that you can do and complain all you want to complain. This is our place. We're going to run it the way we want to run it. And if you don't like it, there's the door,” said James Vagnini, one of the attorneys representing the pair.
In a statement, Univar told WFAA: "We value the diversity of our employees and strive to provide an inclusive environment. As a policy, we do not discuss matters of pending litigation."
Univar prohibits discrimination and harassment, according to the corporation’s Code of Conduct.
“We do not tolerate harassment of any employee and must always treat employees, customers and business partners, such as vendors and suppliers, with dignity and respect,” the code of conduct states.
"They said I'm playing the card or I'm being too sensitive or it's nothing. That word's nothing. They didn't mean no harm by it. It gets switched on me. I'm the bad guy," added Gill.
"It's not 100 years ago. It's 2017. This kind of thing is still happening in Dallas and it needs to stop,” added Jay Ellwanger, another attorney representing Forman and Gill.
That’s why the two men hope a court might help.
Attorneys Ellwanger and Vagnini have won judgments and gotten settlements in similar cases of racial harassment.
Attorneys representing Univar have not yet filed a response to the federal lawsuit.