The Cincinnati Enquirer
hangman's noose in a cafeteria, racial graffiti, swastikas and
Ku Klux Klan videos in an employee lounge comprise a "racially
hostile'' environment at AK Steel's Butler, Pa., plant,
according to a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit filed in
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought
the action Tuesday against the Middletown steel maker. The
suit charges AK with creating and condoning a racially hostile
work environment for about 20 African-American employees at
the Butler mill, about 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh.
Alan McCoy, spokesman for AK Steel, said the company had no
comment on the lawsuit. The Butler mill, which produces
electrical and stainless steels, employs about 1,950.
AK Steel also faces a racial discrimination class-action
lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. That case was
filed last year on behalf of 16 African-Americans who
unsuccessfully sought work at the steel maker's Middletown and
Ashland, Ky., plants in 2001.
The suit filed here, accusing AK of engaging in "systemic
racial discrimination in hiring,'' is pending.
The Pennsylvania lawsuit was initiated by Gerald Patterson,
an African-American and employee of the Butler mill, who filed
a discrimination complaint with the EEOC.
Despite Patterson's complaints to management, the suit
alleges, the company "took no steps to promptly and
effectively eradicate the offensive environment."
M. Jean Clickner, EEOC trial attorney, said the agency
investigated Patterson's initial complaint for more than a
year. During a site visit to the plant in July an EEOC
investigator found a noose in an employee cafeteria and was
told that it had been hanging there for a couple of years.
The agency filed suit after attempts to work out a
settlement short of a lawsuit failed, she said.
Under federal civil rights law, each of the
African-American employees could receive compensatory and
punitive damages of up to $300,000 from AK Steel.
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