Ten white employees at a Whirlpool Corp. factory have joined a U.S. $50 million federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against blacks at the facility.
The suit against the La Vergne, Tennessee, U.S. plant and its local union was first filed in 2003 by 15 black employees. The case went to mediation, but the talks broke down in July.
An amended complaint adds the 10 white current and former employees as plaintiffs. It says the white employees can attest "to an environment permeated with racial hatred, slurs, epithets and stereotypes." Plaintiffs, who claim to have tape recordings to support their allegations, said management at the factory is aware of the racial hostility and has done nothing to stop it.
Whirlpool said that the claims were investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and found to be without merit.
"Whirlpool Corporation is committed to a work environment at all of our facilities around the world that fosters respect and dignity for the individual," Whirlpool said in a statement. "We believe the lawsuit is simply an effort to assert the same unfounded claims. We intend to vigorously defend ourselves against them, and we fully expect to prevail."
The plaintiffs dispute Whirlpool's assertion that the EEOC has absolved the company.
Rather, an EEOC response said it was "unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes. This does not certify that the respondent is in compliance with the statutes."
Besides compensatory and punitive damages, plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and court order to prevent the alleged practices. (AP)
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