GM Hit with Discrimination Claim

March 20, 2002 ( - Minority workers have filed a $7.4 billion lawsuit against General Motors Corp. (GM), alleging they were racially and sexually harassed at two Michigan plants.

Their complaints include allegations that a foreman confronted two plaintiffs in a Ku Klux Klan outfit, and that hangman’s nooses were hung near minority workers’ workstations.

The suit, which names 15 GM worker plaintiffs, charges that GM didn’t stop the harassment at a truck assembly plant and at a truck engineering and development facility in Pontiac, Michigan, according to a Reuters report.

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In the Ku Klux Klan incident, the plaintiffs charged the foreman told the two plaintiffs, “I am the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and you n*****s better get your act together,” Reuters said, quoting the lawsuit.

“The intent of the General Motors group leader was to intimidate and humiliate plaintiffs because of their race or color,” the workers charge.

According to the suit, African Americans, Native Americans and Mexican Americans were hit with racial slurs and minority females received threatening phone calls. Their complaints to GM officials didn’t prompt any corrective action, the plaintiffs said.

Zero Tolerance

For its part, the company claimed it has cracked down on harassment and discrimination problems and that the situations described in the suit represented “a small number of unfortunate incidents.”

“GM does not condone or tolerate such behavior,” the company said in a statement, which added that most of the allegations in the lawsuit were “untrue”.

Plantiff attorneys said they would seek court permission to represent other GM workers as a class.

Of the current 15 plaintiffs, one has never actually been a GM employee. He joined the suit because he applied for a job at the automaker, but was allegedly turned down because of his race.

New Jersey Case

GM settled a similar case last year that involved lawsuits alleging both racial and sexual harassment at a manufacturing plant in Linden, New Jersey. GM agreed to pay $1.25 million in that case.