Suit: Caterpillar discriminates against black workers at Aurora facility

SHARE Suit: Caterpillar discriminates against black workers at Aurora facility

A federal lawsuit filed Thursday claims a west suburban Caterpillar facility doesn’t hire African American workers and discriminates against the few that it does hire.

Five people—Seneca Johnson, Cory Jones, Eddie Jones, Columbus McGrew and Derrick Moore—filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Chicago, alleging that Caterpillar practices racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation against black workers at its Aurora facility.

The Peoria-based manufacturer of heavy equipment is one of the largest employers in Illinois, with roughly 22,600 employees at two dozen facilities, according to its website. Caterpillar employs about 2,800 workers at the Aurora facility, according to the suit.

But an “overwhelming majority” are not African American, the suit claims. No member of Caterpillar’s board of directors is black and only one of the company’s 38 corporate officers is African American.

The suit also alleges Caterpillar doesn’t effectively monitor the treatment of black workers or properly respond to their complaints of discrimination.

“While we cannot comment on this specific complaint at this time, Caterpillar fosters an inclusive environment and treats people fairly and with respect,” the company said in a statement Friday. “This is central to our Core Values. Caterpillar does not tolerate actions that violate our code of conduct or the rights of our employees.”

Each of the plaintiffs complains of a racially hostile and discriminatory working environment at the Aurora facility.

Moore alleges that, during his employment from 2005-13, he applied for more than 90 engineering and supervisory positions requiring a college degree, only to find the positions were given to non-African Americans, many of whom he believed lacked degrees, the suit said. Moore eventually quit because “he could no longer endure Caterpillar’s discriminatory treatment and the lack of opportunity for African Americans.”

Cory Jones, who has worked at the facility since 2007, claims his non-African-American supervisor made racist, offensive and threatening comments about African Americans, including references to lynchings and “Planet of the Apes,” according to the suit.

Eddie Jones, who joined the facility in 2006, alleges his supervisor has falsely and unjustifiably blamed him for any mistakes in the work area. He and Johnson filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and were subsequently issued Rights to Sue notices.

The three-count lawsuit claims racial discrimination and retaliation, and seeks an undisclosed amount in damages.

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