White Boeing employees used N-word and put noose at black colleague's desk, lawsuit claims

Kayla Epstein

An African American employee at Boeing‘s Charleston plant is suing the company over a claim he found a noose hanging over his desk.

Curtis Anthony, who has worked as a quality inspector at the facility in South Carolina since 2011, alleged that his colleagues used the n-word and urinated over his desk.

The claims, which Boeing denies, include race-based discrimination, “retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violations of the Family Medical Leave Act, and breach of contract and breach of contract with fraudulent intent”, according to court documents.

“I was born in the 60s,” Mr Anthony told Live 5 News, which first reported the lawsuit. “I’ve seen a lot in dealing with the noose and people that live on the dark side instead of living on the light side and people that will always use that as a symbol of hatred.

“It reflected me in a way that it deteriorated me from doing my job,” he added. “It put me back to when I would see people that would represent the noose.

“Whether they represented it or not, it just brought back bad memories from my past.”

The alleged harassment proved detrimental to Mr Anthony’s health, and he took a leave of absence in late 2017 under the Family Medical Leave Act to seek treatment for the mental and emotional distress caused, the lawsuit said.

Donald Gist, the lawyer representing Mr Anthony, told The Washington Post: “Urinating on someone’s desk and using racial epithets and slurs is not the usual state of business.”

Mr Gist said that Boeing had fired the employee suspected of planting a noose in Mr Anthony’s office, but that the company had failed to take the previous incidents seriously when Mr Anthony reported them.

Although Mr Anthony has remained with the company, Mr Gist said he is “putting his job, his career, his support of his family, on the line to speak out against racial injustice".

Boeing denied the accusations in a statement published on Monday.

“Mr Anthony’s requests for FMLA leave have been consistently and repeatedly approved by the company in an expeditious manner,” the company said.

“Moreover, most of Mr Anthony’s allegations were never brought to the attention of management, giving the company no opportunity to investigate these claims. The single issue he did raise was dealt with promptly and in a fair manner.”

The company did not respond to questions about whether an employee was fired over allegations of placing a noose on Mr Anthony’s desk.

In late February, Live 5 News reported that a noose had been found at the plant, although Boeing would only acknowledge the discovery of a “racially-charged symbol”.

Brad Zaback, the vice president and general manager of the 787 program, told Boeing employees in an email that “there is absolutely no place for racism and these cowardly acts in society and especially in our company”. He promised that Boeing would open an investigation, Live 5 News reported.

Mr Gist confirmed that Mr Anthony had been the target of that incident.

The lawsuit claimed that Boeing acted with “complete indifference” to the urination and racial slurs, despite the fact that Mr Anthony “made numerous specific protected complaints of this race discrimination and racial harassment to his supervisors”.

In August 2017, he was moved to a different location without air conditioning, which Mr Anthony alleged was done in “retaliation”. He also claimed that he was retaliated against for taking family and medical leave, and was denied promotions throughout 2018 as a result of his petitions while his white colleagues advanced instead.

Mr Anthony is seeking “compensatory and punitive” damages.

The lawsuit comes as Boeing faces intense scrutiny after two fatal crashes involving its 737-Max jets resulted in the grounding of the planes by airlines and regulators around the world.

In April, The New York Times reported that claims of shoddy workmanship, disregarded safety standards, and unsafe labour conditions at the Charleston complex had led to concerns about the safety of its 787 Dreamliner jet.

Washington Post