Associated Press Writer
DALLAS (AP) — Black workers in Texas employed by a Louisiana-based oil-services company were taunted with racial slurs and nooses in the workplace and routinely were denied promotions, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
At a news conference in downtown Dallas on Wednesday, former and current employees of Turner Industries said the EEOC findings validate complaints they’ve made for years.
“I took it for a long time,” said Dontrail Mathis, a 33-year-old painter’s helper at the plant in Paris, nearly 100 miles northeast of Dallas. “I had a family to support.”
A group of workers filed a class charge with the EEOC last year. Two weeks ago, the EEOC determined “that on a regular basis … Black employees were subjected to unwelcome racial slurs, comments and intimidation, racial graffiti, nooses in the workplace and other symbols of discrimination.”
Michael Fetzer, the EEOC’s district director in Dallas, wrote that Turner managers were aware of a hostile work environment for black employees but failed to make changes. Black workers received different, lower-paying job assignments and were denied promotions.
Turner Industries employs about 700 people at the Paris plant, 100 of whom are black.
Last year, the EEOC found reasonable cause to support about 4 percent of race-based complaints against employers.
In a statement, Turner said it disagrees with the findings but will meet with the EEOC to address all concerns. The company said its own investigation found no discrimination or retaliation against any worker.
“We aim to demonstrate that Turner’s Paris, Texas, facility is free from any form of discrimination, retaliation or any other workplace conduct that violates either the law or our own high standards for employee conduct,” said John H. Fenner, general counsel for the Baton Rouge-based company.
Current and former workers at Turner found the company’s claims hard to believe. At the news conference Wednesday, they stood in front of enlarged photos showing nooses left around the factory. Photos distributed by attorneys showed racial slurs spray-painted across desks and scrawled onto bathroom walls.
“It bothers me and it disturbs me,” said Stanrod Johnson, a welder. “It makes me think they think I’m stupid, or that I’m a child.”
The workers and their attorneys are expected to meet with Turner officials and the EEOC in a mediation process called conciliation, said James A. Vagnini, a lawyer who represents some of the workers. If conciliation fails, Vagnini said he would seek a right-to-sue letter from the agency and proceed with a class-action lawsuit.
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