White employees join discrimination lawsuit against Whirlpool
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ten white employees at a Whirlpool Corp. factory have joined a $50 million federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against blacks at the facility.The suit against the La Vergne plant and its local union was first filed in 2003 by 15 black employees. The case went to mediation, but those talks broke down in July.An amended complaint Thursday adds the 10 white current and former employees as plaintiffs. It says the white employees can attest “to an environment permeated with racial hatred, slurs, epithets and stereotypes.”Plaintiffs, who claim to have tape recordings to support their allegations, said management at the factory is aware of the racial hostility and has done nothing to stop it.Eugene Julien, one of the white plaintiffs added to the suit, has worked at the plant 21 years and he said he’s seen graffiti on walls “using the n-word.””I heard co-workers talking about the KKK on Martin Luther King Day and saying there should be a James Earl Ray Day,” said Julien, referring to the convicted assassin of the civil rights leader.Whirlpool, based in Benton Harbor, Mich., said in a statement Thursday that the claims were investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and found to be without merit.”Whirlpool Corporation is committed to a work environment at all of our facilities around the world that fosters respect and dignity for the individual,” the statement said. “We believe the lawsuit is simply an effort to assert the same unfounded claims. We intend to vigorously defend ourselves against them, and we fully expect to prevail.”The plaintiffs dispute Whirlpool’s assertion that the EEOC has absolved the company.Besides compensatory and punitive damages, plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and court order to prevent the alleged practices.Whirlpool is the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances and has 68,000 employees. The LaVergne facility produces room air conditioners, built-in refrigerators, air purifiers and dehumidifiers.—On the Net:Whirlpool: http://www.whirlpoolcorp.comVail Colorado
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