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NNPA - According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commis-sion the number of race-based discrimination cases in America has increased dramatically since 1980, when no such cases regarding nooses had been filed with the office. The EEOC has at least 30 noose-related law suits and is currently investigating more, said EEOC representative Paula Brunner. While most nooses are hung anonymously, Andy Jones, third year mechanic at the South Side Waste Water Treatment Plant, took great care to let everyone know that the noose displayed from the rearview mirror of his truck which he parked on city property belonged to him. Co-workers say that before the noose, it was the confederate flag he brandished, on belt buckles, bandanas and on tattoos, which he proudly displayed by rolling up his sleeve.
Despite being told that his behavior was highly offensive, Clement Bernard, Instrument Supervisor for South Side Waste Water Treatment Plant, said he continued this kind of behavior without appropriate redirection. On Oct. 3, his virulence would not be displaced as he not only displayed the hangman’s noose once, but after being asked to take it down by a supervisor, returned to work again with an even larger noose now displayed from the ship of his truck.
“On Oct. 5, the City of Dallas investigated a complaint regarding an incident at the South Side Waste Water Treatment Plant. The incident involved an employee who had a hangman’s noose displayed from the rearview mirror of his personal truck as he parked the vehicle on City property. The Human Resource Department was asked to conduct an investigation based on the provision of the City of Dallas personnel group.
The Human Resource Department completed their investigation on Tuesday, Oct. 23 and concluded that the employee created a disturbance in the workplace and was insubordinate to his manager,” said Tennell Atkins, Dallas City Councilman, District 8. Atkins also stated that on Oct. 25, the director of Water Utilities issued a disciplinary action to four employees, included were three members of management, who received reprimands and one employee, who received a five day suspension without pay.
According to Faye Jackson, her life since the incident has been tumultuous, to say the least. She says she has experienced an overwhelming since of abandonment and feels that little, if any, attention has been paid to what she describes as a hostile work environment which she says has been made worse by the treatment she received during the investigation by the Human Resource Department personnel.
Jackson, a single mother, says she was called before the investigative panel and made to feel as if her actions in reporting the hanging of the noose were wrong. In fact, Jackson said that she was told that she should have been able to stand up to Jones and confront him about the noose herself and that she should not have involved her immediate supervisor, Clement Bernard. However, Jones said what disturbed her more was their interrogation about her knowledge of the hangman’s noose.
“Keith Garrett, Benavidez, Mr. Evers, from HR, you know they were all there asking me questions and saying, ‘...well Faye don’t you know back in the 1920s, or some time frame they gave, that capital punishment was hanging? I told them, ‘no I didn’t know that.’ Then they went on to ask me, ‘Well, did you know that cowboys were hung back in the day’ and if I actually knew the difference between a hanging and a lynching.”
Jackson said Mark Evers asked her if she believed that the noose could mean different things to different people to which she replied, “Different things, maybe different things to different folk, but to a Black person, I know what it means to us. It means that you’re going to hang a Black person, you’re ready to kill him, it means you’re gonna kill me or I’m going to die,” Jackson said.
She added that she went on to tell the panel that she feared for her life, but she said to this point the panel offered no assistance or counsel to the worker. She says other than her interview during the investigation, no one has inquired about how she or the others are doing and she fears the matter will be ignored and swept under the rug.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center said that employers who do not act expediently to resolve such issues do so at their peril. And Paula Brunner, Attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreed, citing the increase in escalated cases involving, not just the display of the noose, but use of the noose as in the San Antonio case where a Black man had a noose hung around his neck by a White employee that had declared that he wanted to hang someone. Brunner said that while the man fought to free himself of the noose his supervisor encouraged him to stop fighting his assailant saying that he was only playing with him. This was done even while the man bled out from his neck.
Brunner said people experiencing workplace violence or hostile work environment such as the ones discussed here should file with EEOC, make their employers aware of their situations and if they are in places where others are victims who work along side them, they should consider filing a class action lawsuit against the employer. She admits that the yield is not as good as the EEOC would like and statistics show that while the EEOC in fiscal year 2007 was able to recoup approximately $64.1 million dollars in such cases, the number of successful cases was only about 11 percent.
She said that many people fear the loss of income and either don’t file or drop out of claim altogether. Brunner said the new E-RACE initiative goes a long way in helping others learn more about the damaging effects of work place harassment, discrimination and the lack of appropriate responses by employers who do little to prevent a hostile work environment. She said that while great strides have been made toward the eradication of discrimination in the workplace, we still have a long way to go.
According to reports, Andy Jones’ discipline for his criminal and offensive behavior was a five day suspension without pay. He has spent the last two weeks on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation. Employees involved in making the complaints against Jones say that justice has not been done in this case. Bernard says that the punishment sends the wrong message to others who may wish to behave in the same manner.
In a written response, Mayor Tom Leppert stated that he intended to let the city’s process for dealing with employees regarding issues like this work. He also stated that steps had been taken to insure that if something like this should reoccur, it would be dealt with quickly.
He adds, “While these situations can be challenging, our expectation is for employees to move beyond this, work together and do their job.”