Race lawsuit claims NES workers put noose on training dummy

Friday, September 11, 2009 at 12:02am

A group of African-American employees from Nashville Electric Service on Wednesday filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the utility, alleging the department is overrun with “practices of racial discrimination.”

Eighteen current employees and applicants are listed as the plaintiffs in the filing, which also targets Metro government.

Citing the Civil Rights Act, the suit goes to great length to detail the “racially hostile environment” which allegedly exists at NES and unfair hiring and promotion practices.

Sixteen employees are individually named as plaintiffs, and each lists his or her experiences confronting racially derogatory language, racially insensitive jokes.

However, a single common incident does run through many of the plaintiffs' experiences at NES.

According to the filing, in September 2007, while the country watched the infamous “Jena 6” episode unfold in rural Louisiana, at NES’ Donelson Center “a hangman’s noose was found around the neck of a dark-skinned training dummy.”

After the incident was reported and investigated, three white employees where suspended without pay for three days. However, the suit alleges other white employees, “in an act of defiance and racial solidarity took up money for these suspended individuals so that they did not lose any pay.”

Surrounding this central incident are a number of other racially motivated exchanges, including the use of racial slurs and co-workers “wearing CONFEDERATE headbands/bandanas and cars with CONFEDERATE FLAGS on them.”

The suit argues the employees were “adversely affected” by the “systematic practices and pattern of racial discrimination by being subjected to a racially hostile environment.” Two of plaintiffs were job applicants who claim they were not hired on the basis of their race.

Many of plaintiffs are longtime NES employees, some with more than 20 years of service.

The suit also alleges "discriminatory selection procedures" in hiring and promoting African-Americans. Plaintiffs claim they were passed over for promotions even though they informed their supervisors they were interested in training and being promoted. In several instances, the suit claims, less qualified white employees were hired instead of black applicants.

As relief, the suit seeks an award of back pay, front pay, lost benefits, preferential rights to jobs and “other equitable relief.”

The suit asks for an order requiring Metro and NES to establishing a task force on equality and fairness and to implement programs that will "eradicate" racially hostile conditions "so African-Americans will no longer be segregated in unequal positions and prevented from obtaining management and other more desirable positions."

When reached for comment Thursday afternoon, Metro's legal department said it could not comment on any ongoing lawsuit. Tim Hill, NES' public information officer, said the utility also could not comment.

“We know the lawsuit has been filed but we haven't seen it,” he said.

Hill confirmed the 2007 incident occurred and three employees had been punished, but said he has no knowledge of an effort to raise money on the part other white employees.

The suit was filed by Jonathan E. Richardson of Smith & Hirsch and Byron R. Perkins with the Birmingham, Ala.-based The Cochran Firm.

8 Comments on this post:

By: sidneyames on 9/11/09 at 6:55

I knew it. Just as soon as I bought a clothes line to dry my clothes, put in a new energy efficient heating/air system and started using those energy efficient highly toxic with mercury swirley ugly light bulbs, that someone or some thing would burst my bubble. Suing companies for ANYTHING, causes everyone to pay. Why can't they just work it out? Why can't we all just get along?

By: frank brown on 9/11/09 at 7:24

Well, get ready for the "post office" effect to hit NES. They will coddle these people and the next thing you know there will be 26 people doing the work of 18.

By: sidneyames on 9/11/09 at 7:53

Frank, you are probably right. I wish we could all get along and stop the fighting.

By: Houston on 9/11/09 at 11:03

At my workplace I hear folks disparage "rednecks" all the time. Hey, maybe I can sue, for "back pay, front pay, lost benefits, preferential rights to jobs and 'other equitable relief.'"

By: big mac attack on 9/11/09 at 1:55

WOW...someone else trying to "make a buck" playing the "RACE" card...who would have thunk it!!! I'm SHOCKED!...I think it is a HORRIBLE thing to discriminate, but I'm very curious, I didn't hear anything about Mexican's, Asians, Indians or anyone else being discriminated against...or perhaps they're just not quite as quick to play "THE RACE CARD."

By: GUARDIAN on 9/11/09 at 3:12

Just another case of the race card and political correctness gone wrong. I do wonder if NES suspended the three employees that pulled this bad prank gone wrong then what is the problem. NES can't do anything about other employees taking up money to give to the three suspended employees unless they take away the rights of the employees that gave. I'm also sure the black employees that sued would not like being told the couldn't wear anything with Marin Luther King, Obama, Michel Jackson or any other black hero ect. on it. Just a thought

By: sidneyames on 9/11/09 at 4:31

Guardian; the 3 got sent home and the brew-ha-ha is that their friends at work took up some money for them so the rest of the folks got mad. To me, it's nobody's business if fellow employees and friends want to take up money for other employees. I think that work attire should be all solid with no writing on it at all. I mean, it's work. Let's do the "dress for success" thing and not the dress for sarcasm thing. I'm from Danville, VA - the last capitol of the Confederacy - you know - Jefferson Davis and the whole 9 yards. I'm not a racist. I think that everyone did not get to pick "race" on God's "I want a baby" application. It's the luck of the draw. I mean look at O'bama. He spent 9 months in the womb of a white woman and then instead of saying "I'm white", he said "I choose to relate to being black". Hmmm! He's one of the few who got to choose. Me, I had to settle for being white. I've learned to live with it. My neighbor called me a racist 'cause I didn't vote for O'bama. I said "no, not a racist -- a realist". I really really really don't like his policies. And I really reallly really think we spend way too much time and money on lawsuits.

By: wolfy on 9/13/09 at 8:07

Wow, even while he pushes up daisies, Johnny Cochran has convinced a bunch do-nothings to sue for something they don't deserve. Preferencial rights to jobs? Isn't that discrimination in itsself? Oh I forgot, that ranks right up there with the Miss Black America, The United Negro College fund and Ebony magazine. I hope a judge throws this garbage out before the ink dries.