Lawsuit claims nooses, ‘whites-only’ signs displayed at Ohio GM plant

Nine employees claim rampant racism at a General Motors plant in Ohio  in a lawsuit filed against the company, saying “whites-only” signs were hung outside a bathroom and nooses were found hanging.

One of the employees, Marcus Boyd, told CNN that he would be called the N-word repeatedly at the Toledo Powertrain plant. Boyd, a supervisor, added that a white employee told him, "Back in the day, you would have been buried with a shovel.” 

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Boyd said he reported the incidents, but upper management had a culture of protecting other white employees.

"You have management people in high places, and union officials in high places, that work together to protect people ... that are white,” he said.

Boyd also said that a white employee once threatened him with a heavy metal part over a vacation request. He said he reported the incident, but the man lost only one day’s pay.

"I used to have to pray. Literally, 'Lord, protect me,' " Boyd said. "It was like being at war.”

Another black supervisor at the plant, Derrick Brooks, said he found several nooses hanging in the area where he worked and reported them to upper management.

"How rough and tough can you be when you got 11 to 12 people who want to put a noose around your neck and hang you 'til you're dead?" Brooks asked.

The lawsuit alleges an "underlying atmosphere of violent racial hate and bullying” at the plant.

Both men said they left the company following repeated threats and noose sightings.

The company reportedly replaced ropes used at the plant with chains in an attempt to curb the incidents.

In a statement to The Hill, GM denied the claims made in the lawsuit.

"Discrimination and harassment are not acceptable and in stark contrast to how we expect people to show up at work," the company said. "We treat any reported incident with sensitivity and urgency, and are committed to providing an environment that is safe, open and inclusive. General Motors is taking this matter seriously and addressing it through the appropriate court process."

The president of the United Auto Workers Union local that represents most employees at the plant, told CNN that “union people protect employees no matter what race, ethnicity."

"Punishments were equal across the board. If he feels management was being more lenient — I don't see that,” Dennis Earl added. “I’ve never seen that. It's pretty colorblind, if you ask me."

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission found following a nine-month investigation that GM allowed a racially hostile environment to exist, according to CNN.

Updated at 1:32 p.m.