Detroit woman reports seeing noose at Chrysler plant, but finds herself fighting for her job

Charlene Lust says she just wanted to get photographic evidence of a racist symbol she saw while at work, but now she says her employer has thrown her under the bus

Robots handle parts for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles at the FCA Sterling Stamping Plant August 26, 2016 in Sterling Heights, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

A woman working at an auto plant in suburban Detroit is alleging that after she reported seeing a noose at the factory, the company that employs her stopped her from returning to work.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Charlene Lust is completely sure she saw a noose in Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly in February, while helping a coworker clean up. She is not directly employed by Fiat Chrysler, but rather Lexington, Ky.-based subcontractor MacLellan Integrated Services.

“I literally almost fainted. I’ve never seen one,” Lust said of the jarring incident that left her shaken and gripped with sadness. “When I saw the noose, I was like stuck.”

READ MORE: Black GM workers sue over discriminatory environment, nooses and ‘whites only’ signs hung in Ohio plant

Lust took a picture of the noose, which she took to be a racially charged warning to her and other African Americans at the plant’s paint shop. She says her quick thinking to collect visual evidence, is a result of the role she played in 2015, when she helped authorities detain a pedophile.

“It startled me. It felt like the moment I caught the young boy being molested at the park. It was like one of those shocks,” said Lust, a 34-year-old mother of four, who was previously awarded a civilian citation from the Warren Police Department for her bravery.

But now she says instead of being applauded for her efforts, she’s instead been put in the precarious position of having to fight to keep her job. According to Lust, her employers at MacLellan Integrated are upset that she took the photo, and posted a video of the noose on social media.

She said that her employer generally encouraged workers to take photographs of their work, although taking images in plants is typically not permitted.

Lust alleges that after she blew the whistle on the rope, she was unceremoniously terminated and informed that she is no longer welcome to return to the site. MacLellan Integrated has not responded to several requests for comment from the Free Press.

She has since has filed complaints claiming discrimination based on race and retaliation with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights against MacLellan, FCA and her union. She is also facing eviction from her home while fighting for her job. She is reportedly behind $1,250 in back rent.

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“FCA does not tolerate retaliation against any person who reports a violation or participates in an investigation involving a workplace incident,” Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in a statement e-mailed to the Free Press. “Such behavior is strictly prohibited and anyone found engaging in such behavior will be dealt with accordingly.”

The company did launch an investigation of the incident using “external investigators” but has not found the perpetrator. It did say however, when the person is caught they would be fired.

Fiat Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly is a 286-acre plant located about 25 minutes northeast of Detroit, which manufactures the 2019 Ram 1500 pickup and employs more than 7,800 people.

READ MORE: Teacher who made noose symbol to intimidate Black student won’t face charges