Black Xerox Workers File Lawsuit

CINCINNATI (AP) — Black employees suffered from racism at Xerox Corp.'s Cincinnati facilities, including complaints of racist slurs and symbols such as black dolls with nooses around their necks, according to a federal commission.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, investigating complaints from the employees, found that black workers in three Cincinnati facilities were victims of discrimination.

``Evidence shows that blacks, as a class, were subjected to a racially hostile environment,'' and that Xerox ``disciplines black employees more frequently as a class,'' the EEOC's report says.

Lawyers for the black workers said Wednesday that they plan to file a lawsuit in federal court in Cincinnati in the next few weeks.

Xerox's investigation of the complaints has not found evidence of discrimination, said Bill McKee, a spokesman for the Stamford, Conn.-based copy machine maker.

He said about a third of Xerox workers belong to minority groups and that 37 percent of senior executives are women, minorities or both.

``Diversity is one of our core values,'' he said. ``It's part of the fabric of Xerox, rooted in our commitment to treat all people with dignity and respect.''

James Vagnini, a lawyer for the group of black workers, said racist symbols were displayed in Xerox work areas and employees who complained were ignored or retaliated against. Employees also say they were denied promotional opportunities and equal pay.

Vagnini said the proposed lawsuit would be brought by four current or former Xerox employees. He wants it to be a class-action suit to represent about 300 current and former black employees.

One of the workers, Shawn Frierson, 29, said he quit his job June 28 because of the atmosphere and that a white supervisor repeatedly called him racial slurs. Frierson, a father of three, said he quit without having another job lined up.

``Xerox, they need to be held accountable,'' Frierson said. ``They need to know these things cannot be tolerated.''

Last year, black employees of Xerox sued the company in federal court in New York City. The current or former sales representatives claim they were assigned to less profitable territories than white co-workers, passed over for promotions or denied commissions they had earned. The class-action lawsuit is still pending.

Also last year, 10 black workers at Xerox's operations division in Texas filed discrimination charges with the EEOC. The Texas employees said they were denied promotions or salary increases and were subjected to derogatory jokes compiled in a booklet distributed at Xerox.

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