Allegations of racist symbols at local company

Reported evidence of racial slurs and nooses were displayed at a downtown rally. ABC13 has blurred the word shown in the upper photo displayed.

January 31, 2011 3:48:45 PM PST
Allegations of racism have led to a massive lawsuit against an oil services company that operates in Texas and Louisiana. Workers claim they've seen nooses at work as well as racist graffiti, and hundreds of them are protesting the conditions. Last year, Turner settled a similar complaint with the federal government. But this lawsuit goes further and some of the allegations, you may find upsetting.

Outside the downtown federal building, current and former employees of Turner Industries made their feelings known. They say nooses in lockers, and racial slurs scrawled on walls are repeatedly popping up where they work.

"I'm 48 years old. I don't want my grandkids to go through what my grandfather went through, my father went through, and now that I have to go through," said Turner employee Nina Taylor.

Taylor says she found a noose while working at a Turner plant in Beaumont. Taylor still works for the company but is also one of the people filing the discrimination lawsuit. Attorney James Vagnini represents Taylor and hundreds of others.

He explained, "We're seeking extensive injunctive relief. We're looking for a court to order this company basically to overhaul itself, hire qualified human resources people to handle these complaints."

Complaints against Turner aren't new. Last year, the company settled with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over similar allegations of discrimination at one of its Texas plants. Local labor attorneys say these types of lawsuits are not unusual.

"Unfortunately, these type cases are very, very common," said labor attorney Katrina Patrick. "This is not the first case involving nooses. It probably, unfortunately, won't be the last."

As for Taylor, she says she'll continue to work at Turner, because she needs to support her family.

She said, "I work for what I want and I want the right to walk into any workplace and earn a living."

Turner Industries sent Eyewitness News a statement reading in part: "Turner Industries intends to aggressively defend the allegations in this suit as well as its record of providing excellent employment opportunities for residents nationwide. We will remain committed to providing excellent jobs and employment opportunities for all qualified applicants without regard to race. That will never change."