A Black boilermaker has filed a lawsuit claiming he feared for his safety and was forced to quit after he reported a coworker for discrimination.
Kevin Ellis alleges the problems occurred over six days about two years ago on a McDermott International Inc. project in Arden, near Asheville, McClatchy News reports.
He filed the civil lawsuit on May 5.
See the lawsuit here.
Ellis claims in the lawsuit that he reported a co-worker for allegedly making racist comments. While that worker was fired, Ellis’s attorneys claim that other employees began to harass him in the days following.
Ellis is suing McDermott for racial discrimination and retaliation, saying the company knew about hostility he experienced on the job site but did nothing to stop it.
“As a direct and proximate result of the retaliatory treatment, hostile work environment, and unsafe working conditions that Ellis was subjected to, Ellis resigned his employment with McDermott,” his attorneys said in the complaint.
The news service says attorneys representing Ellis and McDkermott did not immediately respond to their request for comment on May 11.
Ellis now lives in Alabama. In May 2018, his lawyers say in the lawsuit that he was hired as a boilermaker to work for McDermott.
His attorneys say things went wrong more than a year after he started with the company, when a co-worker was tying a rope in a knot and asked Ellis if he was “scared”.
“(The worker) then proceeded to state that ‘public hanging needs to be brought back,’ clearly referring to the period during which lynching of African Americans occurred,” the complaint states.
The published report says:
When Ellis told his foremen about the late-September 2019 incident, the coworker reportedly said he had taken the “racially charged comments the wrong way.” Ellis then took his complaint to McDermott’s safety manager and human resources representative, his attorneys said, and mentioned the same coworker had repeatedly referred to him as “boy.”
The complaint states that the co-worker was only terminated after Ellis called the corproate human resources office. The termination occurred about three days after the incident reportedly occurred.
However, the next day, another employee (reportedly friends with the fired co-worker “tried to film Ellis committing a safety violation on his cell phone, his attorneys said. Ellis again told the foremen and reported that ‘he did not feel safe at the workplace and that he was being retaliated against.’
The foremen reportedly took Ellis to see the HR representative, who tried to get in touch with the corporate office but to no avail, the published report says, citing the complaint.
On Oct. 3, two days after Ellis’s coworker was fired, another employee is accused of cornering Ellis near the tool room and demanding the tools he was returning.
“(The coworker) began screaming at Ellis, using profane language, and threatening to fight Ellis,” his attorneys said.￼
At least three people reportedly witnessed the “aggressive behavior directed at Ellis,” and Ellis told them “he did not feel safe at work and feared for his life.” Ellis was allowed to leave work early and tried to get in touch with the corporate office but was again unsuccessful, the complaint states.
Ellis quit shortly thereafter.
Court filings state Ellis filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in November 2019. The EEOC issued a right to sue notice in February, which prompted the recent lawsuit.
McDermott is accused of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The company is also accused of violating Section 1981 of federal law, which guarantees citizens receive equal rights.
The lawsuit seeks Ellis’s reinstatement, past and future wages, damages for his emotional distress and harm to his reputation as well as attorneys’ fees, McClatchy News reported