21 Plaintiffs to go to trial against major US military contractor for racial harassment

Friedman & Houlding LLP represents 21 African-American Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Newport News Industrials, a subsidiary of Huntington Ingalls, which builds our Carriers and Subs. Some of our clients are veterans.

Plaintiffs are committed to obtaining justice in their long-running lawsuit alleging a racially hostile work environment. Evidence includes nooses at their workstations when they came to work, racist symbols and graffiti displayed openly throughout their workplace, including on t-shirts, headbands, tattoos, toolboxes and in bathrooms, and racial slurs. Plaintiffs testified that they were menaced with nooses, including by a supervisor, were addressed as “boy,” referred to as “n*gger” and were shown a video of white people dancing to Johnny Rebel singing “N*gger Hatin’ Me,” among other racist behavior. And many allege they were treated differently than their white peers when it came to being monitored.  A summary of the conduct the district court found supported Plaintiffs’ right to a jury trial can be found here.

This racism was supported with taxpayer dollars.

Plaintiffs allege that NNI was well-aware of an ongoing hostile environment. NNI received no less than 15 written and 11 oral complaints about a single Foreman, who is alleged to have harassed several dozen African-American employees. According to the lawsuit, the Foreman, whose last name is Jackson, was referred to by his white peers affectionately as “General Jackson.” Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson is revered among apologists for slavery. The company promoted “General” Jackson to Interim Superintendent. He testified that the company offered to promote him permanently to Superintendent, but he chose to retire.

Operations Manager and NNI Vice President Steve Napiecek received multiple complaints about racial harassment, yet according to their sworn testimony in depositions, not a single white employee was disciplined for racial harassment or discrimination.

After his deposition, someone wrote “F*ck you N*gger” on one Plaintiff’s toolbox. Security identified a coworker based on handwriting, but Human Resources never disciplined anyone. Afterward, “[name withheld] is a lying n*gger” was found written on a wall. The company did not conduct a handwriting analysis, and no one was disciplined. In 2018, three Plaintiffs observed a group of white workers openly engaging in the Heil Hitler salute. Each reported it in writing and identified one of the perpetrators by name. HR told them it “could not determine any wrongdoing.” Defendant excused the behavior as innocently copying a coworker’s wave.

Confederate flag images have been displayed on vehicles (one had one painted on its hood) parked at the Huntington Ingalls lot, directly in front of the entrances used by managers, as well as appeared elsewhere on company grounds.  The Joint Chiefs have stated that as “service members, we must embody the values and ideals of the nation.” Military contractors should be extremely concerned about extremists whose beliefs are the opposite of those our soldiers have shed blood to defend. However, one military contractor apparently disagrees: Huntington Ingalls refuses to ban the display of an extremist symbol of racial hatred which celebrates slavery.


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