Articles Tagged with Black Lives Matter

Friedman & Houlding LLP represent an account executive for iHeart Media in Harrisonburg, Virginia alleges he was subjected to racial harassment and stereotyping by his supervisor the Market President, followed by retaliation when he complained.

iHeart Media is a mass media corporation, and is the nation’s largest owner of radio stations, including several in the Harrisonburg area. Leon Bowen, an African-American man, worked at iHeart’s Harrisonburg location selling radio advertising to local businesses. Bowen was the only African-American staff member. Right away, Bowen noticed that iHeart’s local client base was almost entirely white, even though the local community was racially diverse. Bowen’s successful efforts to bring black-owned businesses on as clients appeared to anger his supervisor, the Market President. And Bowen saw that the office highlighted numerous holidays throughout the year, but did nothing to celebrate Juneteenth. During the Olympics, when staff members were given countries to represent, Bowen’s coworkers were all assigned “non-black” countries – while he was assigned Jamaica.

As reported in local media, during a team meeting video call, the Market President looked at Bowen, who was wearing a hoodie, and told him “oh, you look cozy.” There was no dress code for team meetings. By way of explaining his hoodie, Bowen simply responded that it was cold that day. In front of his coworkers, the Market President responded: “Well, I hope you’re not going to see clients like that.” Bowen told her he did not plan to. Following the call, she kept Bowen on the line, asking him if she was “sensing some attitude.” Bowen politely but firmly defended himself as a good employee. Bowen immediately reached out to the Area and Regional Presidents to report his supervisor’s mistreatment. In response, the Market President falsely claimed that Bowen had called her a “bitch”—employing stereotypes of black men as aggressive or angry. The Area President directed Bowen to work from home until after the holidays. Bowen complained again to an Employee Advisor for iHeart, who claimed the company would conduct an investigation.

As reported in Local Press, a Redmond, Washington-area carpenter for BNBuilders was threatened with a noose bearing his name at a Meta (formerly Facebook) worksite, after being subjected to the n-word, “jokes” about picking cotton, and other racially derogatory remarks and conduct from his supervisor and coworkers. Friedman & Houlding LLP represents the carpenter, James Myers.

Employer BNBuilders was the general contractor on Meta’s Building X construction site in Redmond, Washington. Press reports that carpenter James Myers, an African-American man, endured racially offensive comments from early in his employment with BNBuilders. Multiple times employees called him “black boy” when asking him to complete tasks. His supervisors made extremely racially offensive “jokes”: an Assistant Superintendent repeatedly told Myers “I’m woke” in a derisive manner, then asked Myers’s Lead, “are you woke?” His lead replied, “I ain’t racist– n***** n***** n*****!”–repeating the N-word several times. The Assistant Superintendent and Lead then laughed, while Myers watched in shock.

More than once, his Assistant Superintendent racially harassed Myers using “cotton”: in front of multiple employees in the field. His AS walked up to Myers and told him: “James, I got something for you.” Myers saw that something was clasped in his AS’ hand. Conscious of all the tradesworkers watching, Myers told him “no,” and tried to deflect him. His AS insisted, “open it!” He then took and opened Myers’s hand, and handed him a ball of “cotton”–the white fiber from cottonwood trees, resembling that of agricultural cotton plants. His AS told Myers, “I picked it for you!” and laughed uproariously.

Friedman & Houlding LLP represents Weldon Moore, an African American truck driver who worked at EXCEL USA in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As alleged in the Amended Complaint the Superintendent of EXCEL’s operations at Louisiana Pigment plant in Lake Charles racially harassed Mr. Moore, often calling him and other African American employees “Black motherf*****”, telling Mr. Moore that he wished he could call his African American coworker the “N” word, and repeating a disgusting “joke”: “Mo, if a Black man and a Mexican man fell off a high-rise building, who do you think would hit the ground first?” When Mr. Moore (known as “Mo”), replied out of shock, “I don’t know, boss,” the Superintendent laughed and said, “Who gives a f***?

As alleged in the Amended Complaint Mr. Moore complained first to Human Resources, in the presence of the EXCEL Louisiana Pigment plant project manager. The Human Resources representative said that she would keep his complaint on file. But neither Human Resources nor the EXCEL project manager engaged in any follow-up inquiries. The racial harassment not only continued, but Mr. Moore’s complaint to HR also resulted in retaliation from the Superintendent. He cut Moore’s  days. When Mr. Moore spoke up about these changes to his boss, his boss simply replied, “You Black motherf*****, if you don’t like it, then drag the f*** up,” which Mr. Moore understood to mean “quit.”

 In his next complaint Human Resources forced Mr. Moore to explain the racial harassment in the presence of his harasser, the Superintendent. The Superintendent stood up and screamed at Mr. Moore, “you mother*****” and stormed out of the meeting. Incredibly, he kept his job. When Mr. Moore returned to his work station, a member of management pulled up in his truck, handed him his business card, stating, “I don’t ever want you to let him or anyone else talk to you that way. If he does that again, call me.”

Friedman & Houlding LLP clients Derick Brown, Atiba Flemons, and Jeffrey Taylor, have brought a Class Action suit on behalf of Black employees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, alleging that the University has a pattern or practice of tolerating racial harassment against its Black employees, and that the office charged with investigating complaints of racial harassment is itself discriminatory in its handling of complaints.

One former Office of Access and Equity (OAE) Investigator, a non-party witness in the lawsuit, testified that she “was working in a hostile work environment,” describing the reasons that she left her employment at OAE (formerly ODEA), the office charged with investigating complaints of harassment and discrimination at the Urbana-Champaign campus. Referring to Director of OAE, Heidi Johnson, the witness testified, “It was my perception and I believe the perception — because it was told to me by other colleagues, that Heidi favored our white colleagues.”

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The witness testified that she did not think Director Johnson treated employees of color in OAE equitably, describing Johnson’s indifference on issues concerning diversity and inclusion and personnel actions driven by bias, including stripping away the title of the witness, a person of color, without a stated basis, favoring White employees with less experience for promotions, and issuing the witness with a baseless disciplinary action. This treatment ultimately drove the witness to leave the University of Illinois after working many years as an OAE investigator.

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.

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