by Lee Houskeeper
Oakland – Civil Rights Attorney John L. Burris held a press conference on Oct. 26 to announce he is filing racial discrimination lawsuits in the Superior Court of San Francisco on behalf of four African American men against Clark Construction Group-California, Inc., for creating a racially hostile work environment and for allowing the men to be subjected to harassment, intimidation and retaliation.
One of the men, Mr. Lawrence Haley, was a journeyman plumber working at the Clark construction site located at 150 Van Ness Ave. Mr. Haley saw writings and drawings stating racial epithets such as: “We are going to kill all of the niggers,” “stupid niggers,” “dumb niggers,” “Nazi” and swastikas. On Oct. 4, 2017, as Mr. Haley was attempting to use the restroom on the seventh floor, he noticed that many of the racial slurs were still clearly visible, even though he had complained as recently as the day before.
Later that day, as Mr. Haley was washing his hands, he realized that the soap was not lathering up. When he checked the dispenser, he saw large feces nestled into the soap dispenser.
Mr. Haley immediately went into the Clark Construction offices to lodge a complaint and was told that he had to return to the job site because there were “procedures” that needed to be “taken care of” before he could leave the job site. Mr. Haley was also told that he would have to seek medical attention on his own. Mr. Haley went directly to the emergency room.
When Mr. Haley later notified a supervisor that he would not be coming into work because of a medical appointment related to the feces issue, this supervisor texted him: “Really? What else can a doctor do? We are all grown men, you need to get over this. If you can’t let me know, I will let you go. It’s a little embarrassing, but we are all grown men.” Because of the incidents, Mr. Haley has been off of work since October 2017.
The other three men, Mr. Douglas Russell, Mr. Craig Ogans and Mr. Don’ta Laury, were journeymen crane operators working as high-rise elevator operators at the Clark Construction site located at 250 Howard St. They all were routinely subjected to outrageous, demeaning and derogatory racial slurs, such as “Kill the niggers, nigger go home, stupid niggers, you Black niggers don’t belong here, why don’t you quit, black hoes etc.”
These comments were posted prominently in various restrooms situated throughout the Clark Construction sites. Even worse than the racial slurs and racial shaming, on one occasion, two Black dolls were found hanging in a noose with writings that said, “Kill nigger Craig and Kill Nigger Dougie.”
Attorney John Burris says, “Even in today’s racial climate, Clark Construction has a duty to provide a safe working environment, free from racial animus, intimidation and harassment. African American men should be free to earn a day’s pay without fear of racial hostility or physical or emotional harm. As such, Clark Construction has failed these men!”
From the Superior Court complaint against Clark Construction is this description of some of the most disgusting harassment of Mr. Haley:
“On Oct. 3, 2017, Plaintiff walked into one of the restrooms, only to find a pile of feces lying on the floor below all of the profanities and threats written on the walls. Plaintiff once again immediately complained to Defendant Clark about the unbearable bathroom conditions. This time, a yet-to-be-identified Defendant Clark supervisor had the impertinence to simply suggest to Plaintiff to ‘put your safety glasses on.’ Defendant Clark never made any efforts to clean either the feces or the writing found in the restroom.
“On Oct. 4, 2017, after eating lunch, Plaintiff made his way to use the restroom before resuming his shift. While washing his hands, Plaintiff pressed down on the soap dispenser and was immediately lathered with feces all over his hands, as the soap dispenser had been filled with feces. Plaintiff was immediately overcome with fear, stress, grief and anxiety. Plaintiff began shaking, as he realized that he had open wounds on his hands that could possibly be contaminated by the feces being on his hands. Plaintiff immediately went to a yet-to-be-identified Defendant Clark supervisor, who did nothing more than point him to the main office across the street.
“Upon running to Defendant Clark’s office, located across the street from the construction site and asking to speak with another supervisor, Plaintiff was simply turned away. Instead of inquiring into how to aid Plaintiff during such a stressful and emotionally detrimental situation, a yet-to-be-identified Defendant Clark supervisor aggressively forced Plaintiff to return back to the job site, doing nothing more than citing ‘procedures’ that needed to be ‘taken care of’ before he could leave the job site. Absolutely no remedial measures were ever taken by Defendant Clark. In fact, quite the opposite occurred, forcing Plaintiff to seek medical attention on his own later that evening.
“On Oct. 9, 2017, Plaintiff begrudgingly returned to work. Throughout the day he was ridiculed and belittled as colleagues reminded him he had ‘shit on his hands.’ Several colleagues expressed their reluctance to having contact with Plaintiff and refused to shake his hand.
“To date, Plaintiff still suffers from severe emotional distress, as he has continuously suffered from nightmares and has had to seek recurring medical treatment. Additionally, Plaintiff was constructively discharged, as he has been on disability since the incidents.”
Contact Lee Houskeeper of San Francisco Stories at Newsservice@aol.com.