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EEOC sues AK Steel for alleged "racially hostile" Butler plant

By JOE MANDAK
The Associated Press
9/9/2003, 2:25 p.m. ET

PITTSBURGH (AP) AK Steel Corp. has condoned a "racially hostile work environment" at its Butler plant for at least three years, by allowing racist language, swastikas, nooses and Ku Klux Klan videos in various areas, including the employee lounge, a federal agency charged Tuesday.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a lawsuit that the alleged problems were so bad that AK Steel management had to have known of them even before black employees, led by Gerald Patterson, 45, of Lyndora, complained.

"Moreover, the racially offensive environment was such that defendant's management staff had actual or constructive knowledge of its existence, without receipt of a complaint by the affected employees," stated the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.

A home telephone number for Patterson, who was hired by AK Steel in April 1999, could not be immediately confirmed Tuesday.

The Fortune 500, Middletown, Ohio-based company had no comment on the lawsuit, spokesman Alan McCoy said. He said the plant has about 1,950 employees.

Patterson is one of about 20 black employees at the plant, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, said Edward McCaffrey of the EEOC's Philadelphia office, which filed the lawsuit. Although the lawsuit covers only allegations since 2000, the EEOC has fielded complaints from other black workers at the plant for years, McCaffrey said.

Among other items mentioned in the suit was literature from the Populist Party the party with which former Klan leader David Duke ran for president in 1988 that referred to a Congressional candidate the EEOC contends was affiliated with the Klan.

"Some of this stuff is in an open area where any black employee could see it," McCaffrey said.

Under federal law, AK Steel could face penalties up to $300,000.

The lawsuit seeks a federal court order to stop the alleged harassment and unspecified damages for Patterson and the other black workers. If the EEOC wins the lawsuit, individual black workers can then come forward to make damage claims based on their work experiences at the plant, McCaffrey said.

___

On the Net:

AK Steel: http://www.aksteel.com/

EEOC: http://www.eeoc.gov/

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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