Monday, January 08, 2007

Employees Find Noose Hanging at Work

By Allan Chernoff

NEW YORK (CNN) -- James Jackson, a 26-year-old black employee of 180 Connect, was preparing for another day of installing cable, telephone and Internet service to residential customers of Cablevision in Nassau County, New York on December 7.

When he walked to the fenced-off area to pick up equipment for the day's jobs he looked up and was shocked to see a vicious, racist symbol in his workplace. A noose was hanging in the fenced-off equipment area, visible to the dozens of installers, the majority of whom are black, but accessible only to his boss and an equipment manager, both of whom are white.

Jackson, a former messenger who had worked at 180 Connect for a year and a half, immediately confronted the equipment manager, Dave Willie.

"I asked Dave," Jackson told CNN, " 'What is that hanging up there?' and he said, 'That is a noose' and I said, 'I know it's a noose, but why is it up there?' And he walked away."

Jackson and his co-workers say they were distraught.

"I just wanted to leave. I wanted to get out of there," 180 Connect employee Ralph Satterwhite told CNN. "I was disgusted."

The installers say they never complained to Human Resources. Instead, they consulted with a labor attorney, documented the incident, and decided to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Installer Shomari Houston, according to the complaint, says he asked his white boss, Gary Murdock, why a hangman's noose was in his workplace. He says the response was: To hang two black employees.

"He said, 'Yo, I like that, it's cool, I am gonna hang Russell up there. Think we can get James up there?' " Houston recalls Murdock saying. "I looked at him like, 'You serious.' "

Jackson says he continued to ask that the noose be taken down, and openly recorded the following conversation with Willie.

Jackson: "Who's that for, the rope?"

Willie: "For anybody who goes past that door that I don't want them in there."

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