CHICAGO (CBS) — German-based ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corp. apologized Tuesday for the racially-hostile work environment that had been created at its suburban Chicago office.
As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, just days after Mayor Rahm Emanuel applauded the firm for bringing its North American headquarters to Chicago, state officials said ThyssenKrupp had created a hostile work environment for black employees at its Westchester office.
On Tuesday, ThyssenKrupp issued an apology, under pressure from Emanuel and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The company also pledged to address the situation and come up with the targets of alleged discrimination on an appropriate resolution.
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An African-American sales representative had sued the company, alleging he faced a relentless barrage of racial insults.
Former ThyssenKrup salesman Montrelle Reese said “my direct supervisor used n***** in front of me; not on one occasion, but two occasions, and thought nothing was wrong with it. The first time he said it, he laughed and he apologized. The second time he said it, he shrugged his shoulders and he went about his business. This is important, because he’s my direct supervisor and directly impacts my success at the company.”
Reese worked at the company’s Westchester office for more than two years before resigning in January 2010.
He said he endured constant, almost casual use of the N-word; disparaging comments about black neighborhoods; and a skit performed in blackface at a company meeting in Indianapolis
On Tuesday, ThyssenKrupp president and CEO Rich Hussey issued a statement saying:
“We understand that these allegations have been the source of distress and hurt to members of the African-American community, citizens of Chicago, our employees and others. For that, we offer our sincerest apologies and recognize our responsibilities in this matter.”
He also acknowledged the use of racial epithets was a mistake and said the company needs to take further measures to prevent such behavior. The company will retrain workers in an effort to correct the problem.
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Emanuel praised the company for taking action, saying the city won’t tolerate discrimination.
“Those are not the values of Chicago. We have a core set of values and, to be a good citizen, you must enforce it and also educate to it. They’ve taken the action you saw today, so they’ve done what they’re supposed to do,” he said.
Emanuel admitted he applied some Chicago-style arm-twisting on ThyssenKrupp officials, speaking to executives to urge them to find a speedy resolution to this issue.
Last week, Emanuel welcomed ThyssenKrupp’s announcement that it would bring 100 new jobs to Chicago by making the city its North American headquarters.