CWS 3.0: June 20, 2012

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Risk: Contingent Worker Files Suit After Find of Racist Figurine

A contingent worker, who found a racist figurine in his locker at a rubber plant in Texas, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the staffing buyer, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., and staffing firm Qualitech Maintenance Inc.

Kenan Alexander, an African American, worked through Qualitech at Goodyear’s Beaumont, Texas, rubber plant since 2002. Alexander arrived on May 31, 2011, to start his shift when he discovered a figurine inside his locker that depicted a black male eating a watermelon, according to the lawsuit. The figurine had a rope around its neck.

Alexander was unable to continue working his shift, and left after two hours, according to the lawsuit. He was not allowed to work another shift.

Goodyear issued a memo on June 1, 2011, seeking employees with knowledge of the incident to step forward, according to the lawsuit. But on July 21, 2011, management sent the plaintiff a letter saying it had not yet been able to “identify those responsible for the incident,” the lawsuit stated.

Alexander later saw a doctor who took him off work and gave him medication. Alexander took unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act from June 2011 to August 2001. Although a doctor approved him to return to work on Aug. 8, 2011, the company did not allow him to come back until Aug. 16, 2011, according to the suit. It argues that the later start date caused Alexander to lose out on some earnings and was retaliatory.

The lawsuit alleges this is not the only instance of a racially hostile environment, and it alleges that race was a factor in Alexander not being hired as a full-time employee.

Goodyear said in a statement that it has zero tolerance for discrimination. Although it has not been served with the lawsuit, the company said the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated the case and dismissed the charge.

“The EEOC investigated the allegations, conducted interviews and ultimately dismissed the charge earlier this year in March,” the company said in a statement.

“Goodyear has a long-standing ‘zero tolerance’ policy that prohibits any form of racial harassment,” the company said. “This policy specifically protects and extends to contract workers, such as those who work for Qualitech like Mr. Alexander.”

The company said it will formally respond to the lawsuit in court, once it is served.

Ben Ramsey, corporate counsel for Mundy Companies, of which Qualitech is a part, said on Monday that company has also not received a copy of the suit as of yet. Qualitech also has strong anti-discrimination measures in place, he said.

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