FORT WORTH, Texas — Editor's note: The details of the lawsuit referenced in this article include numerous offensive details. Viewer discretion is advised.
A Fort Worth branch of a Houston-based crane and rigging company is being sued for "unlawful employment practices on the basis of race" and alleged retaliation toward an employee who complained about the harassment.
The lawsuit, filed in late August in a Fort Worth federal court, claims the field manager and several employees at TNT Crane & Rigging discriminated against four Black employees by "subjecting them to a race-based hostile work environment." It also alleges that a White employee complained about the harassment he witnessed and received subsequent retaliation, including "reduced hours resulting in his constructive discharge."
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company on behalf of the aforementioned workers, who received charges of discrimination nearly a month before the lawsuit was filed. Here is a list of the allegations of discrimination cited in the lawsuit by the workers:
- The workers allege the field manager of the Fort Worth location and several employees frequently used racial slurs and jokes, including use of the N-word.
- Threatening and offensive imagery was also allegedly present throughout the Fort Worth facility, including nooses and lightning bolt stickers identified with white supremacy on cranes.
- In August 2018, a Black crane operator was working a job at the Frisco Mall, when the field manager asked him to drive back to the facility to get an air conditioning unit. When he asked for assistance, the field manager allegedly said "N-----, if you are going to b---- about it, you can turn that truck around and take your a-- home.” The lawsuit states that the operator reported this incident to the branch manager and there was not an investigation or corrective action to address it.
- Another Black crane operator was allegedly told by the field manager "n----, if you don't want the job, go home."
- Another Black truck driver claims he heard the field manager, along with several employees, using the N-word during a conversation. The truck driver reported this conversation to the branch manager and safety director and was told the matter would be addressed. The lawsuit claims no one in a supervisory position addressed the complaint. The truck driver also claims in the lawsuit that a coworker told him about racist conversations where he was referenced as the n-word. The coworker also told the truck driver the White employees called him "Black daddy," according to the lawsuit.
- A Black crane rigger said in the lawsuit he also frequently heard and witnessed racially-charged jokes about his coworkers. A white coworker allegedly told the crane rigger: “A lot of Black people are f------ lazy. You’re different, you’re not like other n------. You work though, that’s what I like about you.” The crane rigger also stated that the white coworker compared him to another Black employee, while saying about that employee, “[H]e is a n-----, he’s lazy.”
- A white crane operator also described that racial slurs were commonly used and saw lightning bolt stickers/tape identified with white supremacy on the sides of some cranes. He reported the stickers to the branch manager, safety director, and operations manager and reported the racial slurs to the safety manager, the lawsuit claims. According to the lawsuit, the supervisory positions did not "engage in an effective response, investigation, or corrective action to address the complaint."
- The white crane operator saw a noose tied by a coworker in the Dallas location prior to its closure and saw a second noose hanging on the back fence of the Fort Worth yard in February 2019, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit says the Branch Manager was aware of the noose which he referred to as simply a “cowboy knot.” The incident was reported to HR and an employee training was conducted, where the white crane operator admitted to being involved in the complaint. After the training, employees continued to use the n-word and would mock and minimize the noose report, the lawsuit claims.
- The white crane operator had the tires of his personal vehicle flattened, the lawsuit claims. He confronted a coworker who shoved him, cursed at him and called him numerous "wigger," "n----- lover" and "snitch." One week after the complaint about the noose, the white crane operator's regular and overtime hours were reduced, causing a reduction in his weekly pay, the lawsuit claims.
- The white crane operator was called a "troublemaker" by the branch manager who also accused him of “stirring the pot,” the lawsuit claims. It continues to say the branch manager then told Cook to “get [his] s--- and leave.” The crane operator attempted to report the incident to TNT Crane & Rigging's corporate office in Houston, but did not receive a response, per the lawsuit. He expressed that it was not his intent to quit but said he felt he was being forced out.
According to the lawsuit, on Feb. 1, the EEOC issued TNT Crane & Rigging letters of determination finding reasonable cause to believe that Title VII was violated. The EEOC determined on April 7 that they were unable to come to an acceptable conciliation agreement.
TNT Crane & Rigging issued a statement saying they do not and will not tolerate racial discrimination or harassment of any kind.
"We do not agree with the EEOC’s characterizations and can state affirmatively that the alleged actions arose out of claims dating back four to five years ago at one branch," the statement reads. "Once they were made known to us, we promptly and thoroughly investigated, and appropriately addressed the issues based on our findings."
The company says it continues to reinforce its commitment to a fair and diverse work environment, which is explicitly stated in its policies and routinely reinforced in branch meetings and trainings.
The lawsuit requests a jury trial and compensation to be paid to all employees named in the lawsuit.
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