Five Black and Hispanic electricians who felt threatened when several nooses were found at an Amazon warehouse construction site in Connecticut have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the company and two contractors, accusing them of inaction, retaliation and racial discrimination.
The state chapter of the NAACP had called for hate crime charges, but no one was ever arrested.
“Plaintiffs were terrified to be in the crosshairs of an FBI investigation,” says the lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 21 in U.S. District Court. “As men of color from poor and working-class backgrounds, they all had tenuous relationships with law enforcement. Here, they had vocally complained as witnesses to hateful criminal conduct in their workplace and yet they were now being treated as perpetrators.”
Seattle-based Amazon, Wayne J. Griffin Electric and RC Andersen are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The electricians worked for Wayne J. Griffin Electric, based in Holliston, Massachusetts, while RC Andersen, based in Fairfield, New Jersey, was the construction manager for the distribution center project.
Phone and email messages seeking comment were left Thursday for Amazon, the two contractors, the companies` lawyers and the FBI.
The lawsuit alleges violations of federal and state laws, including racial discrimination and creating a hostile work environment. It seeks an undisclosed amount of money for damages.
“One of the primary points of the case is obviously that no people of color should have to work in an environment where even one noose is hung,” said Stephen Fitzgerald, a New Haven lawyer for the electricians. “A noose is the most hateful symbol of racism in this country.”
The plaintiffs were among about 50 Griffin electricians working at the site, along with iron workers from Texas, who were displaying confederate flags. Some of the nooses were hung up, while others were found on the floor, the lawsuit states.
After the first two nooses were found in late April 2021, Amazon and the contractors did not do anything to prevent further incidents, such as instituting security patrols, the lawsuit alleges.
The electricians installed security cameras at the site, but the cameras were never turned on and were pointed away from areas inside the building were nooses might be hung, the suit claims.
While law enforcement authorities investigated, Griffin officials made comments to the plaintiffs accusing them of leaving the nooses in efforts to be transferred to other jobs that paid a higher rate, the suit alleges.
The electricians also allege that FBI officials first talked to Griffin managers. The way an FBI agent later questioned the plaintiffs suggested he believed the electricians were the perpetrators, the suit says.
The lawsuit says Amazon, Griffin and RC Andersen failed to take adequate steps to stop the noose incidents. It alleges the companies were aware of the problem of nooses at Amazon work sites as early as 2017, when a noose was found at an Amazon distribution center in Bloomfield, Connecticut, also near Hartford.
Another noose was found at an Amazon construction site in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, in March 2022, the lawsuit says.
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