John Deere worker endured slurs, fried chicken, chain and cotton jokes at work, lawsuit alleges
John Deere is the target of a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a Black man who worked there for 12 years and alleges he was harassed from Day One.
The lawsuit filed on June 29 in the Iowa District Court for Polk County says Johnnie Hogan was hired in September 2010 and claims he was called a racial slur on his very first day. According to The Miami Herald, Hogan’s attorney asserts that ever since, “John Deere has allowed a culture of racism to flourish and thrive within the Des Moines Works facility.”
While he tried to ignore much of the antagonistic behavior, Hogan said, there was one nickname that stuck with him for years: “the angry Black man.” One supervisor even used it at a morning meeting, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit illustrates several other examples of racist behavior at the facility, including jokes about Hogan eating fried chicken on a lunch break and a co-worker who asked him if he ever worked in the cotton industry. When Hogan answered in the affirmative, the co-worker allegedly said, “it’s good you and your ancestors have something in common.” Another colleague asked Hogan “to teach him how to make cornbread because his ‘wife really likes Black people cornbread.’”
“The types of racist comments listed above occurred on a daily basis and [Hogan] always made it known that these comments were unwelcome and unacceptable in the workplace,” attorney Roxanne Conlin wrote.
Hogan was even subjected to threats, including a supervisor saying he “needed to be chained to a dock,” and another worker saying he left Hogans’ children in a pool to drown, according to The Herald.
Hogan reportedly complained about the harassment to a compliance hotline in November 2020, and no action was taken. He was, however, transferred in 2021 to a new department, where he experienced even more racism, including being referred to as “boy.” A second hotline complaint in March 2021 resulted in the firing of a supervisor, which earned Hogan the disdain of his colleagues.
That month, Hogan reportedly filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. At that point, his lawsuit says, Hogan’s supervisors at John Deere started to “over-supervise” him, harassing him for little things such as time spent in the bathroom. Into this year, he alleges, he was continually yelled at, singled out and discriminated against.
A follow-up complaint was filed in March with his state’s Civil Rights Commission. They granted Hogan a “Right to Sue Letter,” The Herald reports, just as they did in his first action.
Out of fear of retribution and “as a result of the mental distress and emotional distress he suffered because of the discrimination and harassment he has endured,” Hogan went on short-term disability leave. His lawsuit against john Deere seeks a jury trial, compensatory damages and a court order for the company to examine its discriminatory practices.
“We cannot comment on pending litigation,” a John Deere spokesperson said in a statement to McClatchy News. “Workplace discrimination and harassment have no place at John Deere and the allegations do not reflect our principles and expectations of our employees.”
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