Testimony of Gary, Ironworker

Good morning. My name is Gary. I was involved in an EEOC case against a Texas construction company that I worked for in 2016.

I have worked in construction since 1999. I have worked construction jobs all over the country, in at least fifteen states. I have been an operator, expediting equipment and material to and from a work area on a construction site. I have worked as a mechanical millwright, precisely setting equipment such as conveyors and identifying and resolving mechanical problems with equipment. I have worked as an ironworker, assembling steel on cement and chemical plants, factories, warehouses, steel mills, and other projects. I have also worked shutdown jobs, updating any parts or systems that are due for servicing.

I have always worked hard and done good work. I know the dos and don’ts of my work. It’s about communication, having the right tools, and knowing what obstacles might come up. I travel by myself to all these jobs, but I’ve almost always been able to get along with everybody. In construction, on the road, the people around you become your family.

In May 2016, I started work on a construction site in New York State. I drove up from Alabama to take the job. I was hired as an ironworker but started working in the laydown yard because they needed someone to operate the lull. A lull is a machine like a forklift. It is used to move equipment from one place to another.

About a month after I started, my supervisor started saying racist things to me. He called me over the radio that everybody used and said, “Get your Black ass down here.” Another time, he asked if I was going trick-or-treating for Halloween. We were kind of joking around. Then he said we would go together. He told me that I wouldn’t need to dress up. He would wear his white hood and put a noose around my neck and we would walk down the street.

Other supervisors and co-workers said things, too. They weren’t bashful about it. They didn’t keep it in the closet. They assumed other people were okay with it. One supervisor told me to come to where he was on the site to help him. When I got there, he had a rope dangling in front of him like a noose. A co-worker told me a racist joke. He said, “What word begins with an N and ends with an R?” I couldn’t figure out what he meant. And he said, “Neighbor. Ah-ha. You thought I was going to say the other N word, huh?” That same co-worker told me I was his “favorite n-----.”

There were a lot of bad things that happened. That is just some of them.

It bothered me a lot. I was working to get money for my family. The racist comments stressed me out. It also made it hard to do my job. In construction, you need to be able to keep your mind at ease, to keep yourself safe and everyone around you. Hearing racist jokes is not the way to keep your mind at ease.

I had heard of the EEOC, but I didn’t think that far into it. But my girlfriend knew I was upset. She said, “Why don’t you do something about it?” So, I filed a charge. It was the only way I could think to break through. The EEOC filed the lawsuit for me and other Black workers at the same construction company. The EEOC case settled about a year after it was filed. I know that good things happened at the company because of that settlement. First of all, the company paid money because of what happened on their watch. Two of the supervisors who harassed me can’t work there anymore. Also, the company had to make some changes to how employees could report harassment, because when I worked there, the supervisors we were supposed to report to were some of the ones making racist comments.

Thank you.