African-American employees at an AT&T warehouse in Memphis won’t back down after the company cleared their white supervisor of racial harassment.
Several workers from the warehouse demonstrated on Friday because there will be no punishment for their boss who allegedly held up a noose inside the workplace where about 95 percent of the employees are Black, WREG-TV. They plan to continue their protest until something is done.
The alleged incident took place in September. Bruce Friday, the white supervisor, made a noose using a forklift safety rope and pointed it toward two African-American managers. The workers believe it was caught on video surveillance cameras.
A complaint was filed with the company’s ethics board, labor department and corporate headquarters. However, AT&T found no substance to the claims.
“When this was brought to our attention in September we took it seriously and did a prompt and thorough investigation. There was no noose hung in the warehouse. And we found absolutely no evidence of any intent to threaten or discriminate against anyone,” a company statement to WREG said.
The result of that investigation only angered the employees. “He didn’t get a suspension. He didn’t get anything,” forklift operator Robin Johnson stated during the demonstration on Friday. “It’s pretty much a lot of people who are afraid of him out here.”
This situation seems ripe for an independent federal investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s race or color, according to the EEOC’s website. Harassment is illegal if it “creates a hostile or offensive work environment.” Furthermore, the harassment is not limited to “explicit” racist behavior, as a 2017 EEOC case showed. It involved supervisors at the Connella Baking Co. in Illinois who ignored complaints from a Black employee that co-workers would refer to him as “you people” in a derogatory way.