Former Michigan Trucking Company Employee Sues After Complaining of Noose Hanging in Garage

A civil lawsuit filed against Romulus, Michigan-based trailer-manufacturing company Benlee, Inc. claims that a former employee experienced racial harassment, focusing on what appears to be a hangman's noose in a garage.

According to local ABC-affiliate WXYZ, the former employee, Jermaine Ware, complained about the noose hanging on the door, but little was done.

Ware's attorney Jon Marko said that Black employees at Benlee faced harassment, with the rope being the worst thing that workers dealt with.

"The pattern of treatment was not just limited to Jermaine. If you had dark skin, you were not treated very well at this place. When I say not very well, I mean threatening, intimidation, threatening their lives really, with I think exhibit A--one of the most incontrovertible pieces of evidence--is this hangman's noose that they had put in the shop as a message and warning towards the African-American workers," Marko told Newsweek. "When he complained about the noose, the noose disappeared for a small amount of time, and then it showed up again in the shop."

Marko called it a "completely racially hostile work environment," and he also said that Ware faced other harassment on the job. "When he was pushing some equipment around in the warehouse, they'd make whipping sounds, like a Southern plantation owner, whipping a slave," he explained. "When he washed his hands, they would make comments like, 'Keep scrubbing. You can't scrub hard enough to get all the black off you.' When he'd punch in his time card, they'd say things like, 'Oh, the time clock's not working, cause you're Black.' All sorts of horrible stuff."

In a statement, Benlee did not directly address the allegations against them, but focused on Ware asking for his job back after abruptly leaving.

"BENLEE is aware of the lawsuit. The employee filing the suit, voluntary resigned and left the job the same day, vs. the common courtesy two weeks notice. Five days later, in writing (via txt), the employee wrote he was flying home and 'if possible can I come back this following Monday,'" the statement said. "His Manager who the txt was sent to, had not had a chance to respond, so the next day the employee wrote. 'Hey, just checking on your answer about me coming back next week. Kind of have need to know before I accept another job when I come back'. Note: the employee wanted to come back to BENLEE vs. taking another job, per his own document."

The statement continued that a new employee was hired instead of Ware. "His manager responded with 'Cant do it now! Already hiring new guy in the works,'" the statement said. "The employee filing the suit responded with 'Damn f**k the zero bring back the hero!'"

While not necessarily addressing the accusations, the statement did say that harassment and discrimination were against company policy. "BENLEE is an equal opportunity employer with a diverse workforce at all levels (Senior and Entry Level Positions) of the company and does not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. It is unacceptable in the company and against company policy for any emoplyee [sic] to harass or discriminate any employee at any time on any issue," the statement said.

Marko wasn't impressed by Benlee's statement. "Benlee needs to take some responsibility for how African-Americans are being treated at its company. I mean, I read the statement that they issued to the media. They don't address the racial discrimination. They try to play the victim. They should be ashamed of themselves," Marko said.

Besides an apology and monetary compensation, Marko said he hopes that the case "makes it so an African-American can go to work in Michigan, in Wayne County, in the year 2020, and not be scared that they're going to be judged, because of the color of their skin."

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