Black factory worker claims he was fired after reporting KKK hood placed above his workstation

Washington is being represented by top civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom, who says SAC failed to comply with their legal obligations after she wrote a letter expressing her outrage

An African American factory worker, who believes he was fired in retaliation for reporting what he believed was a shocking workplace incident, is now suing his former employer for racial discrimination.

Isiah Washington, 27, claims his former employer Sierra Aluminum Company in Riverside, California discriminated against him last April when he says he was targeted by racist colleagues who hung a Ku Klux Klan ‘hood’ above his workstation.

‘You could clearly see what it was meant to be, the eyes, it was like they were looking at me,’ Washington tells Daily Mail Online in an exclusive interview.

‘The KKK, that’s what I know, I just thought it was bad – clear as day.’

Washington has turned to top Los Angeles civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom to defend his case.

‘I’ve been doing race discrimination and other civil rights cases for almost 30 years and this is shocking to me, that in 2015 in Los Angeles there would be a symbol of the KKK, one of the most ruthless, violent racist organizations in American history over his workstation and that the company, according to Isiah, did not take it seriously,’ she tells Daily Mail Online.

'It was like slow motion, everyone was laughing. I was frightened, scared for my life,' Washington says after he found a white plastic sheet with eyeholes, looking much like a KKK hood, above his workstation

According to the lawsuit filed at Riverside Superior Court – Washington, who worked at the firm as a packer, was one of just five African American employees in the 500 strong work force.

On April 27 last year Washington and three other African American workers were moved to a work area in the firm’s ‘Union building’ by his supervisor.

When Washington settled in to the new area, he noticed a large white plastic sheet hanging 20-30 feet in the air directly in front of his workstation.

The lawsuit states: ‘The plastic sheet was white in color and it clearly had eyehole cuts to make it appear as a Ku Klux Klan hood, known worldwide as a symbol of racial hatred and terror against African Americans.

‘This white, sharply pointed hood of a full faced sheet with eyeholes hanging, as seen by Washington at his workstation, is the most distinctive feature of the Ku Klux Klan and is known as the ‘glory suit’.’

The legal papers says Washington was ‘offended by, fearful of and threatened by the Ku Klux Klan hood.’

The shocked worker immediately took a photo on his phone and called his ‘White Hispanic’ supervisor over.

But rather than address Washington’s concern the supervisor called him a ‘puto’ – a derogatory Spanish term for ‘homosexual’ – and told him to get back to work, according to the suit.

Washington explains the incident was the culmination of months of discrimination.

‘It frightened me, I was scared because of the previous incidents and how I was treated… I felt threatened.

‘So I asked my supervisor, ‘can you please take it down’, at first he blew me off.’

Washington says his boss started talking with other workers and they all began laughing at him.

‘It was like slow motion, everyone was laughing. I was frightened, scared for my life,’ he reveals.

According to the lawsuit the white sheet remained above his workstation for another hour as he continued to work and he believes that someone had deliberately put the sheet there to intimidate him.

‘I don’t take it as a prank or a joke,’ Washington says.

‘I worked hard, I was there every day, I took my job serious. I felt as though it was hard to get rid of me, so I felt like it was like a threat.’

When Washington made an official complaint to SAC’s human resources department, it was ignored and the firm claimed a gust of wind must have blown the sheet in.

From that day on Washington felt he had to ‘watch his back’ and as a result suffered ‘severe emotional distress, anxiety, and fear,’ according to the lawsuit.

In the months afterwards Washington, who had started at the firm in November 2014, suffered daily derogatory comments from his co-workers.

He explains he tried to ignore the poor treatment, but says: ‘Stuff would keep coming my way, I was doing things right, but one of the supervisors would come and tear it down and tell me to do it again.

‘They would try to make me mad, I really don’t know what their objective was.’

After the KKK incident Washington says he felt ‘frustrated’ that the company refused to act.

‘Knowing that somebody was after me and I can’t do anything about it,’ he adds.

The company did agree to move Washington to the earlier day shift, but a few months later he ran in to more trouble.

Washington accidentally cut his thumb while moving some aluminum and patched it up with a band-aid.

The next day his supervisor asked him why he had been to the First Aid box.

Washington told him and said he was fine, but the supervisor insisted he go see the company doctor and insisted that someone drive him.

But when cautious Washington refused to be taken, instead suggesting he could drive himself, the supervisor got mad and said he couldn’t go any more.

Washington went to the doctor anyway and was cleared to work.

But when he returned to SAC the next day he was immediately fired for ‘not following company policy’.

He says he believes the incident was their excuse to get rid of him.

Washington was unemployed for the next six months and says he had to use food stamps to survive.

He’s now working for a security systems company in Riverside where he says people are finally treating him with respect.

As for his treatment by the people at SAC.

‘I don’t get it, I wasn’t raised to hate somebody for the color of their skin. I think it’s nasty treating somebody like that… everybody should be equal,’ says Washington.

Bloom agrees – as she tells Daily Mail Online she’s proud to represent Washington in the case.

She filed the lawsuit against SAC claiming the firm had violated federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

Bloom says any company, when faced with a claim of prejudice, has a legal obligation under the nation’s civil rights laws to do a ‘prompt, thorough investigation’ to punish the wrong-doers and protect the victim.

She adds: ‘You can see from Isiah’s complaint, none of that happened.’

Bloom says Washington filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, but SAC failed to ‘do the right thing’.

After Washington approached Bloom’s law firm last May she wrote a letter to SAC expressing her outrage and asking them to put things right, but again, she claims, they failed to comply with their legal obligations.

‘Ultimately he was terminated, he contends, in retaliation. Now the law clearly protects anyone who makes a complaint from being retaliated against,’ says Bloom.

‘The excuse that the company gives that he had a tiny little cut on his finger and he didn’t go to the doctor, when in fact he did go to the doctor and he has proof of that, I mean it’s just preposterous.

‘I mean this whole set of affairs really shocks the conscience and it really demonstrates how far we have to go before we are a country that really embraces and lives its values of equality.’

Bloom has degrees from UCLA and Yale Law School. She has taken on many high-profile lawsuits including one against the Boy Scouts of America for sex discrimination on behalf of a young girl who wanted to join, the Roman Catholic Church on behalf of child sexual abuse and molestation victims and race discrimination cases against the LAPD.

A spokesperson for Sierra Aluminum Company tells Daily Mail Online: ‘We have no comment on open litigation.’

Source: The DailyMail

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