Jewel Workers’ Suit Alleges Racial Harassment

CHICAGO (CBS) — Two Chicago men who work at Jewel-Osco have sued the company, claiming they’ve been the targets of racial slurs from co-workers for two years and that supervisors have done nothing to stop it.

CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports that the two African-American men have worked at Jewel-Osco’s distribution center in Melrose Park since the early part of the decade.

They said they felt pushed to file a civil rights lawsuit against the company because their complaints have gone nowhere and the harassment has taken its toll.

Arvell Irish and Leslie Moore said the taunts have been hurtful and anything but subtle; from co-workers using the n-word around them, to graffiti on their work lockers – Spanish words meaning monkey and black – to banana peels left in front of their lockers.

“They wouldn’t say it to your face. They real tactful with it. They’re saying it, like, in the locker room … so you could hear it; out loud, oh yeah, out loud in the locker room,” Moore said. “We came to the locker one time, it’s a banana peel … laying on the bench in front of our lockers.”

“Every day you have to deal with ‘what’s next?’” Irish said. “Can I go and just do my job and just come home to my family without there being an incident.”

Irish and Moore said they don’t want to deal with it anymore, which is why they filed a federal lawsuit alleging a “racially hostile work environment” at the Jewel-Osco distribution facility.

Their attorney, Eugene Hollander, said they took steps to try to change that environment, filing complaint after complaint with their supervisors.

“These clients repeatedly complained to management, to their union steward, to the business agent,” he said. “We’ve got a photo of the locker with the racist epithet. We have a documentation to their 800 confidential hotline they made complaints.”

In a statement, a company spokesperson said “Jewel-Osco is an equal opportunity employer that does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We have not yet been served with any new litigation.”

“I don’t think they’ve dealt with it at all and I don’t understand why,” Moore said. “But I know at times when things happen in certain areas of the warehouse and, maybe it’s off camera, they feel like they don’t want to deal with it because it’s one word against the other.”

Irish said “You feel you have not outlet, you feel like you’re trapped; I have to deal with this by myself now and that’s not the way I should feel going to a place of employment.”

Hollander said the ultimate goal of the lawsuit is to “tell corporate America they can’t tolerate behavior like this. On a more individualized basis, we’re hoping to get these gentlemen compensation for what they’ve had to endure.”

Moore and Irish said they know they will likely have big targets on their backs because they’ve filed this lawsuit, but Hollander said he will be watching for any sort of retaliation.

  • P T

    What kind of work place in 2010 would allow this kind of behavior? Do the people in charge of that place not understand how this could get worse or even deadly if not stopped when firs brought to their attention?

  • P T

    If they are speaking Spanish, maybe they are ILLEGAL imagrants.

    • simon

      do you think immigrants could be working for such a big company

      • P T

        Yes,I see it at many different places. I think its okay to give someone a chance as long as they are paid properly. If these companies are just using them to boost their profits or for
        A bigger bonus for themselves then that’s not helping our economy as a whole. Taxes should be properly paid and the money should be spent locally, not put into another country

  • fran

    I’ve worked for years for this company and have seen videos and signed papers that say I say I could lose my job for breaking this harassment policy. Yet five different people filed or called in a complaint about one person in my store. There was even video. Nothing was ever done. When your company makes the rules but does not follow through, they should be sued for letting it continue. I hope more people come forward so maybe they don’t have to feel bullied or painted into a corner with no place to go.

    • Taylor

      Fran, is telling the truth.. I work for the same company but a different store. Even if you call the 1-800 to complain you are still harassed.

  • A.J

    First of all these two have a union! Where was the union?



    • chops

      what local?

  • Ingrid canofcorn

    This is an outrage! Where is the management here? I have shopped my entire life at Jewel, along with my family and friends. By shopping at Jewel, I would be supporting racism! Myself, family and friends will no longer be shopping there until Jewel takes care of their hard working employees..

  • go bears

    I also am employed at this warehouse and have been for many years. For the most part, this has been a good company to work for. But for the past few years, I despise the management that is in charge of this warehouse. I dread going to work, or seeing management at work, they waive hi-I just look the other way. Finally someone is doing something about some of the problems here and that Jewel will be looked at more closely and pay more attention to their employees. I hope upper management gets fired, just like they fired my union stewart today!

  • scab lovers

    I spite scabs

  • smokemustmeanfire

    The month isn’t half over yet and this is the SECOND Civil RIghts Case filed against Jewel-Osco.

  • Eugenia Drye

    My husband’s brother is one of the most hard working young men I know. His tolerating this intolerable situation without stooping to their level is a testament to how standup of a person he is. It is enough that Leslie had to deal with Jewel tearing apart the union with nonunion workers while friends were losing jobs, cars and homes. God is always GOOD and will bring him and his wife through this as we remember Psalm 37: “Fret not because of evildoers. Neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity, for they shall soon be cut down like the grass and whither as the green herb.” Fret not ALL Jewel workers for the meek shall inherit.

  • vnw

    this is a shame. You would think in this day & age that a person wouldn’t be discriminated against because of color(race). People should move forward and judge others on their work instead of their color. This must be company policy since management has not done anything to stop the harassment.


    Boycott Jewel Racism – Good luck Leslie and Irish!!!


    I have work for this company for many years…. my husband who is Black & a union worker worked for the company for 15 years at the warehouse also got put on suspension & then fired. While other union workers who are “white” got fired for the exact same thing but they were given their jobs back. I have already Ban & Boycotted Jewel & refuse to shop there. This is just the tip of the iceberg with the Racism here at this company. I have seen racism at this company for the last 10 years but everyone was afraid to say something because this is the type of company that retaliates against you! My husband has filed a complaint with the Dept of Human Rights & they say he has a Case!

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