Lansing company to pay more than $400,000 to resolve racism and discrimination lawsuit

GRAND RAPIDS — A Lansing-based electrical contractor has agreed to pay more than $400,000 to nine former employees to resolve the problem. a federal trial for “endemic racism”.

Six former employees sued United Electrical Contractors, 1314 N. Larch St., in federal court in 2022, although nine former workers ultimately became part of the lawsuit. This week, they accepted the company’s offers of judgment, which will pay them each an average of $47,960 plus attorney’s fees. In total, the company will pay $431,640.

In their lawsuit, the workers said United Electrical Contractors tolerated racist behavior, harassment and discrimination for years. The workers said they were told to “hurry up before I take out my whip”, and called a “boy on a slave ship” who should return to his “plantation”, a “brown boy” and another racist insult.

“I faced horrible racism at UEC. Imagine walking around with the N-word written on your helmet for a week,” Chris Manning, one of the former workers, said in a press release announcing the resolution. “Or listen to your coworker brag about being a member of the KKK and watch him tie a noose to an electrical cord.”

“My complaints to management were ignored and then I was fired for filing my complaints. It is comforting that the UEC has admitted that it was responsible for breaking the law in what happened to me , but their acknowledgment of responsibility will not erase these bad memories.

A message was left seeking comment from the company’s lawyers. The company said in January 2022, after the suit was filed, that the claims had not previously been brought to its attention, but later added that it was able to review them and called them unfounded . UEC President Scott Flegler called the complaints at the time “part of an ongoing union-led harassment campaign designed to interfere with our company’s operations,” even though they were the workers, and not a union, who filed the federal complaint.

Offers of judgment are a legal mechanism similar to a settlement in which the defendant authorizes a judgment against them for a specified payment. If an offer is rejected, it cannot be used as evidence to determine costs later, if necessary.

Lawyers for United Electrical Contractors sent their offers on May 24, according to court records, and employees accepted them Monday.

Through these bids, United Electrical Contractors admitted liability in the claims, Richard Mack, an attorney for the workers, said in a statement. The company also admitted liability for the “severely disparate treatment” and illegal dismissal, among other things, he added.

Angienetta Allen is among those laid off by the company.

“I was a victim of racial and sexual harassment and discrimination at UEC,” she said in the statement. “I was subsequently fired because of my complaints. The UEC now admits culpability in what happened to me. I hope that black women in the trades, who may have faced what I experienced, can be encouraged that justice is available for racism and sexism, even if it takes time…

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