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General Motors plant in St Petersburg, Russia

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Black Workers At GM Plant Allege Racial Harassment Is Ongoing

A lawyer for black workers who are suing General Motors over alleged racism at an Ohio plant–where nooses were found two years ago–claims that the harassment there is ongoing.

“The hostile environment has continued and reached a retaliatory level,” explained Michelle Vocht, a lawyer representing a group of both current and former black workers at the Toledo plant, who all sued the automaker in April of 2018. The suit alleged that the company failed to take prompt corrective action following black employees at the GM Powertrain and Fabrications plant reporting acts of racism, like the hanging of nooses and “whites only” bathroom signs.

Now, Vocht said she is preparing to amend the complaint because the alleged racial harassment is still happening to this day.

The most recent alleged incident was on Wednesday, when one worker at the plant found a monkey doll along with a racist drawing near his work station, according to Vocht. “If somebody was stealing parts, they would clamp down on that,” she continued, “But here they are, stealing my clients’ civil rights and they don’t take that as seriously.”

Derrick Brooks said he worked at the Toledo plant for about two years and in March of 2017, he claims he found a noose hanging in his department. “The reason I feel confident it was aimed at me is because I was the only black supervisor in that department working on that shift,” Brooks told NBC News on Thursday. “I left because it got to a point where I didn’t want to deal with the racial tension and toxic environment anymore.”

The pending lawsuit that was filed last year in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio accuses General Motors of allowing an “underlying atmosphere of violent racial hate and bullying.” The suit alleges that black workers were called racial slurs and that some white coworkers wore shirts underneath their coveralls that had visible Nazi symbols on them. Some black workers also claim they were told “to be careful” because a white employee’s “daddy was in the Klu Klux Klan,” the lawsuit states.

These workers are seeking unspecified punitive damages and asking in their complaint that the company take certain measures at the plant, which includes installing cameras and monitors in the workplace along with increasing security.

According to General Motors, the company has said it treats any reported incident with “sensitivity and urgency” and has taken several steps to address harassment at the plant since it was reported. “Our investigation continues and there is an accompanying police investigation also,” a spokesman for the company told NBC News. “At this point, the investigations have yet to identify the responsible individual(s).”


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