Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chicago Company ThyssenKrupp Accused of Extreme Racial Hostility

 Taken From the Sun Times:

ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corp. apologized Tuesday for the racially-hostile work environment at its Westchester office, acknowledged the “distress and hurt” it caused African-Americans and promised “further measures” to correct past “mistakes.”

Under pressure from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Rev. Jesse Jackson, the company said it looks forward to meeting with former sales representative Montrelle Reese, the African-American target of the alleged discrimination, to “determine a resolution that is satisfactory to all involved.”

Rich Hussey, president and CEO of ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corp., said he also plans to discuss the matter with Jackson, who has demanded a thorough investigation before the company follows through on its plan to bring its North American regional headquarters to Chicago.

“We understand that these allegations have been the source of distress and hurt to members of the African-American community, citizens of Chicago, our employees and others. For that, we offer our sincerest apologies and recognize our responsibility in this matter,” Hussey said in a statement released by the company.

Hussey said the company has once again reviewed the allegations that, on Nov. 3, prompted the Illinois Department of Human Rights to find “substantial evidence of discrimination” against the company Emanuel proudly welcomed to Chicago last week.

“We have had to realize that mistakes were made. For example, the use of epithets to describe a tool to service elevators or disparaging remarks about [black] neighborhoods,” Hussey said.

“We realize that we need to take further measures to prevent the repetition of this type of behavior. … We will dedicate whatever time and resources are necessary to further educate our workforce on the lawful and appropriate treatment of all employees, including the engagement of experts to assist in this education.”

Arguing that “integrity, credibility and reliability define everything we do,” Hussey said, “There is no room in our organization for discriminatory conduct or harassment. The current circumstances will only lead us to redouble our efforts to ensure that every one of our employees — regardless of gender, sexual orientation, color or creed — feels welcome in ThyssenKrupp Elevator.”

Reese, 33, questioned the sincerity and timing of the apology.

He noted that ThyssenKrupp Elevator did nothing to punish his white supervisors or co-workers for frequently using the n-word or making disparaging references to black neighborhoods that comprised Reese’s sales turf — or anyone involved in a black-face routine at a company meeting.

“If they felt like that, they should have said it two years ago. But there was no disciplinary action at all by the company. … It wasn’t of any concern to them — until it became a front-page story,” Reese said.

He added, “It’s a cultural problem. What kind of changes are they willing to make? What are they gonna do differently?”

Jackson said he won’t be satisfied until there is “appropriate compensation” for Reese, a specific plan to “de-toxify the environment” at ThyssenKrupp and a hiring plan to diversify a workforce that had only “one black salesman and one black mechanic” at its Westchester office.

“They admit the obvious, but there is not yet a plan to compensate [Reese] for the violation or a plan to change the environment. You must have a plan that is enforceable,” he said.

“By now, [Reese] would have been more advanced, more promoted and more compensated if not for this act of workplace terrorism he experienced.”

Emanuel said Tuesday he knew nothing about the alleged discrimination at ThyssenKrupp until he read about it in the Chicago Sun-Times.

The mayor acknowledged that he pressured the company to issue the apology to put out the political firestorm.

“As I’ve said before and I’m gonna repeat: [I have] zero tolerance for racial, ethnic, sexual orientation — any form of discrimination. Those are not the values of Chicago. We have a core set of values and, to be a good citizen, you must enforce it and also educate to it,” he said.

“They’ve taken the action you saw today. They’ve done what they’re supposed to do. I want everybody to know that, if you operate in the city of Chicago, there are common values.”

Earlier this week, Reese told the Sun-Times he “never felt more alone in my life” than he did during the two years he worked as a sales representative for ThyssenKrupp Elevator’s Westchester office.

He described sitting in his car alone for up to a half hour prior to entering the building because, “I couldn’t handle being there.”

Reese worked at ThyssenKrupp Elevator from November 2007 until January 2010 before resigning because he could no longer tolerate the hostility.

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