Another noose, a common means of racial harassment, has been discovered at a building construction site, this time in Cleveland.
Black painters working for O’s Versatility Construction found a cardboard cutout in the shape of a worker, with the words “my motivation to work” written on it, in a hangman’s noose on a building project Oct. 24.
A city police report, which characterized what happened as aggravated menacing and ethnic intimidation, said the workers told of being subjected to racial slurs. White workers on the site would call the all-Black painting crew "n-----s" as they passed, the report said police were told by the crew leader. After the figure in the noose was discovered, the crew leader told police, some of the crew stopped working and said they would not return to the project "due to being afraid they would be harmed."
The prime contractor on the project, Mentor, Ohio-based Cleveland Construction, issued a statement to a local television station saying that although its investigation indicated the incident wasn’t racially motivated, the company requested that the subcontractor employee responsible “not return to our project site.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has targeted racial harassment in construction. The commission's latest construction employer lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tampa, claims that 12 Black employees of t Asphalt Paving Systems, based in were subject to a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the federal civil rights law. How effective such lawsuits can be is unclear, critics of the system point out, given the often-modest settlements or damage awards and the victims' experience in the investigation and potential civil lawsuit trial.
The persistent instances of harassment and increased attention have drawn more attention to employee practices liability insurance, which may cover some of the costs of a civil discriminations lawsuit or EEOC investigation. The potential lawsuits often also involve the employers' response to any harassment that is alleged.
Cleveland Construction noted in its statement that "as soon as we became aware of these allegations, we requested that the individual’s employer immediately remove the [responsible] individual from the project site while we conducted a thorough investigation."
"We understand that actions that could be perceived as discriminatory or harassing are still unacceptable, regardless of intent. Therefore, although it does not appear, based on our initial investigation, that the alleged incident was motivated by any racial animus, we nevertheless requested," that the person responsible no longer be employed on the project.
"Cleveland Construction is proud of our diverse workforce on our project sites," the statement added. "We have strong policies against any forms of racial discrimination or harassment, and we have a zero-tolerance policy against any such activity on our projects." Toolbox talks and other training on the subject, the company said, "regularly educate everyone working on our projects."