Racist picture center of discrimination lawsuit

November 4, 2011 3:12:01 PM PDT
Santa Claus, a Ku Klux Klan hood and a burning cross -- those three things are at the center of a discrimination lawsuit three workers have filed against their former employer.

The employees claim they experienced racism on the job and filed a complaint with the EEOC. One of the men does not want his last name known. They say when they complained to their employer, they were discriminated against.

TJ, an electrician-in-training, was working towards his journeyman's license at Schmidt Electric Company last year.

"To enhance my experience and my knowledge of electrical work," he said.

TJ is one of three former employees who have now filed a lawsuit against the Austin-based company.

"It was devastating," he said.

He says he was terminated for a minor safety violation, but three other colleagues were not.

"They're Caucasian, all three of them," TJ said.

TJ is joined in the lawsuit by Eric Spencer, who says he received a disturbing text from a supervisor.

"I was kind of shocked, 'what is this?'" Spencer said. "It scared me, because I have a wife; I took it as a threat, that they were saying they're trying to kill me."

Last December, he claims an image was sent to his phone depicting Santa Claus dressed as a KKK member holding a noose and a burning cross in the background.

"Looked like two more Klan members behind him and at the bottom it said have a White Christmas," Spencer said.

Spencer says he made a complaint to his steward.

"He was talking to me about it and as he was talking to me about it, the foreman walked up and began cursing me out," he said.

And then he claims as he tried to quit, he was fired.

The company responded to the allegations saying, "Schmidt Electric has not been served with the lawsuit and has not had a chance to review the complaint. However, Schmidt does not engage in illegal discrimination or harassment in the workplace. We will vigorously defend the lawsuit."

The attorney for the former employees, Reginald McKamie, calls it a serious case of discrimination.

"They were not protected, and in fact, what they did was they terminated them. That just makes it all the worse," McKamie said.

"I'm not necessarily looking for the money, I just want justice," TJ said.

The lawsuit asks for a jury trial, back pay and damages.

Spencer has found new employment. TJ is still searching for a union job.

Load Comments