FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Four employees with the HVAC company "Air King" are suing United Electrical Contractors for racial intimidation.
The lawsuit includes many disturbing claims including racial slurs being written on porta-potty stalls and a noose hanging at a work site.
John Calvin Mitchell is a plaintiff in the lawsuit who told 7 Action News that in 11 years of work he's, "Never had a job experience this traumatizing on any job site."
Mitchell described being on a construction site as like being on a football or basketball team and said he loved it up until his experience in September of 2021.
"In order to do construction you need to have tough skin because people are gonna say things," said Mitchell. "But the 'N word' and certain things, aren’t allowed on a job site."
And that's exactly what Mitchell is alleging he and three other Air King workers experienced.
According to the lawsuit, during September of 2021, the four men were the only African American workers at their Farmington Hills job site.
It's at that site Mitchell describes seeing a noose hung; "Prior to lunch, we used the same rope to pull up our venting. After lunch, we come back and they put the noose up, I don’t know if was to intimidate us."
Mitchell also describes profanity written on the worksite porta-potty walls; "It would say 'hang the N*****, the n****** are here.' Every porta-potty, it's horrifying. You don't know what to expect."
United Electrical Contractors does have a history with racial harassment claims.
Mitchell's attorney, Amir Makled said, "In the investigation we conducted we noticed there are several lawsuits pending against United coming from their own employees."
7 Action News reached out to United for their response to the lawsuit. They issued the following statement:
Statement of United Electrical Contractors (UEC)This litigation is part of an ongoing harassment campaign orchestrated by a union, designed to interfere with our company’s operations and relationships and tarnish our reputation. The plaintiffs in this case are not employees of UEC and have failed to produce any actual evidence of any improper conduct by any employee of UEC. They have failed to comply with nearly every deadline in the case thus far and have already had one of their counts dismissed outright by the Court before discovery even commenced. These claims are the very definition of frivolous and we fully expect that all remaining counts will be dismissed at the conclusion of discovery.The fact that plaintiffs are seeking out publicity now, more than 8 months after their complaint was filed, is telling as it coincides with other desperation moves by the IBEW over the last two weeks. When they can’t win on the merits or compete fairly in the marketplace, the union consistently resorts to defamation and attempted character assassination to cause harm to our company and our employees.We take any claims of discrimination or similar conduct extremely seriously and have a track record of doing so. We are proud of our diverse and talented workforce. Diversity is one of our core values and key differentiators of our company, which is why our employees receive diversity training. We also appreciate the ongoing support of our customers, who trust the quality and reliability of our team, while respecting the values of our company.
Mitchell said he just wants the company to take accountability; "For years I have wanted to do something professional, I found that passion and love in heating and cooling, and it feels like that’s been snatched away from me."
The lawsuit is seeking more than $25,000 as equity and justice demand, a trial is scheduled for July of 2023.