MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A group of African-American workers filed a lawsuit against a Memphis cotton gin for racial harassment.
In the fedral lawsuit filed Monday, the three workers said they told management at Attkinson Cotton Warehouse, Planters Gin Company of Memphis and Federal Compress that their supervisor was making racial attacks, but nothing was done about it, and they were even fired.
One of the workers recorded a conversation with the supervisor and played it for WREG in June.
The supervisor is heard telling the employee that he couldn’t use the water fountain.
“I need to put a sign here that says ‘white people only,'” said the supervisor in the recording.
An attorney for one of the employees, Howard Manis, told WREG the longstanding harassment included “disparaging names, unwarranted physical contact, degrading comments from superiors, along with ‘whites only’ treatment of the workers.”
The lawsuit states the companies “failed to adopt or sufficiently enforce anti-discrimination policies or procedures in their shared workplace.”
WREG stopped by the supervisor’s home, who is listed as Richard Hudson in the complaint, but no one answered the door.
The supervisor was fired after a federal complaint was filed and the recordings got national attention.
We also called the companies Monday, but no one picked up the phone.
In June, one of the owners of the companies, E.W. Atkinson, told WREG management is provided by another company, and he wasn’t around enough to know about the alleged abuse.
“I just wasn’t around. I am sorry I didn’t know sooner,” he said.
Federal Compress sent out a statement in June.
“Federal Compress maintains a strict zero-tolerance policy which prohibits any form if racially or other discriminatory conduct or language in the workplace and provides a process of reporting such violation to Human Resources for investigation. When Federal Compress was first made aware of see allegations concerning an employee working in another company’s workplace, it conducted a thorough and extensive investigation. The person was immediately removed from that workplace, and is in fact no longer e,played by Federal Compress. Federal Compress very much regrets that the allegations were not reported to it when the incident is first claimed to have occurred.”
The companies have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.