CHICAGO (CBS) — A former employee of a German-based elevator company was taking a wait-and-see approach after a top executive apologized and promised a full investigation into allegations of racial discrimination that created a hostile work environment at the firm’s suburban Chicago office.
As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, former ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corp. employee Montrelle Reese and Rev. Jesse Jackson have met with the company’s head of U.S. operations, who pledged racial bias would not be tolerated at his company.
“I’ve offered my apologies to Montrelle Reese, his parents, and we will do everything to settle this matter,” Christian Koenig, president of ThyssenKrupp USA said Wednesday.
The problem is, Reese insists racial harassment was tolerated for months at the company’s Westchester office. And the apology didn’t come from the people who were directly responsible for the racial discrimination.
“They sound very sincere with their apology, but they didn’t use the N-word around me, they weren’t parading around in black face in a skit,” Reese said.
The skit occurred at a regional conference in front of corporate managers. Reese provided a photo of a ThyssenKrupp manager in blackface during the skit.
It was just part of what Reese said he endured for almost three years as a sales representative for ThyssenKrupp.
Company lawyers vehemently denied the charges until they became public.
“Just as of Saturday, their attorney said ‘We’ll take it to court.’ They were fighting it. It wasn’t important to them,” Reese said.
ThyssenKrupp is an international behemoth, operating in 80 countries, with 20,000 employees in the U.S. But, as Reese found, its Chicago-area workforce is anything but diverse.
“(Reese) is gone, but there are still zero black salesmen since he has left,” Jackson said. “And only one black mechanic out of 120 since he has left. So, far beyond, he is just a symptom of a deeper malady.”
Jackson said he wants not only a fair settlement for Reese, but also sensitivity training for the entire company, and a serious plan to diversify the company’s workforce.
Koenig said he hadn’t heard about the discrimination issue until it hit the media.
Reese said that’s precisely part of the problem and he still holds the option of filing a federal lawsuit.