DES MOINES, Iowa — Bridgestone/Firestone allowed white workers at its Des Moines facility to taunt black workers with insults and threats and punished black workers who complained, a lawsuit filed by eight employees of the Des Moines plant claims.
The Nashville-based tire maker, however, said the suit is without merit and that it trains all employees in its zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment.
The eight black workers-Jeffrey S. Cavil, Rosie Crawford, Robert Goods, Marcus Butts, Stephanie Moore, Henry Robertson, John Scott and Robert Simmons-named BFS and Jeff Higgins, director of labor relations at Des Moines, as co-defendants in the complaint filed Jan. 31 before the Iowa District Court for Polk County.
They seek certification of a class action on behalf of all minority workers who have been denied employment, terminated from employment or subjected to racial hostility at Des Moines since 1997. The workers claim loss of past and future wages and benefits, damage to their careers and emotional distress, and seek financial compensation plus attorneys´ fees.
They also seek relief against discriminatory acts, including mandatory training, changing of shifts, disciplinary action against those engaging in discrimination and permanent injunctions against discrimination.
The plaintiffs and other workers at the plant suffered racial insults and threats of physical harm, such as the display of nooses and swastikas, the complaint said.
BFS officials not only did nothing to stop the threats, the complaint claimed, but indulged in racial slurs themselves and colluded with the union local to stonewall investigations of racial harassment. They threatened and retaliated against black employees who brought discrimination complaints, it said, and also fired or refused to hire black workers based solely on race.
Discovery to determine the extent of the discrimination at Des Moines probably will take six months to a year, said Thomas Newkirk of the Des Moines law firm Fiedler & Newkirk, who represents the plaintiffs.
"We do not believe there is any merit to these allegations, and we expect the evidence in this lawsuit to reflect that," BFS said in a statement. Employees have many avenues to complain about discriminatory treatment, including a toll-free, 24-hour compliance hotline that allows them to remain anonymous.