In the midst of the George Floyd killing and its nationwide convulsions comes an astonishing local story from Ravena where black contractors working at the Lafarge cement plant modernization site in 2016 allegedly were subjected to discrimination and harassment by the industrial contractor CCC Group of San Antonio, Texas.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against CCC, alleging the company fostered a racist work environment in which white supervisors and employees used racial slurs and threatened black employees with nooses, a literal and symbolic reference to slavery and lynching, and dressing in white, a reference to the Ku Klux Klan.

Lafarge is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, nor is it accused of any wrongdoing. CCC is the lone defendant named in the lawsuit.

The allegations in the lawsuit are shocking and jaw-dropping. White CCC employees allegedly bragged their ancestors owned slaves and told a black employee he walked funny because slaves used to walk with a bag on their shoulders picking cotton. A white CCC supervisor allegedly attempted to snare an employee with a noose.

The list of allegations grows even more incredible. Another white supervisor allegedly told an African-American employee that he could wear a noose for Halloween. “You don’t even have to dress up,” the supervisor allegedly told the employee. “I will dress in white and put a noose around your neck and we’ll walk down the street together.”

The lawsuit also claims that black employees were given more physically taxing and dangerous work than their white counterparts, including being assigned outdoor work in winter while white colleagues worked inside. The racial harassment persisted even after black employees complained and objected to the abuses and threats, the EEOC said.

CCC Group general counsel Jason C. Zehner categorically denied the allegations. Zehner declined to comment on the specifics of the complaint, noting that the lawsuit is still pending, but he did say this: “At CCC Group we are proud that equal employment opportunity is not just our employment policy, but it is our firmly held commitment to value and protect all employees by providing a work environment free of unlawful harassment and discrimination.”

The Twin Counties and the rest of the nation are in one of the darkest and most divisive periods in history due to the lack of federal leadership in the COVID-19 pandemic, the subsequent economic crisis and the social crisis sparked by Floyd’s and other killings and abuses against people of color at the hands of police. So it’s amazing to us that there is alleged talk of nooses and slavery at a worksite in 2020. Those sentiments belong to a different age. They have no place here and now.

The misconduct alleged in the lawsuit not only violates federal anti-discrimination laws. It violates moral behavior and common decency.

If these allegations turn out to be true, they have no place in or around the Twin County community or anywhere. If these allegations are true, punishment should be swift. The heaviest possible sanctions should be levied against CCC and companies like them should never be hired to work in this area or anywhere else again.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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