Discrimination Suit Against New Jersey Local Proceeds

Dwayne Jackson, a black service worker, can proceed with his claim that his Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters local aided and abetted the creation of a racially hostile work environment in violation of New Jersey law by defending the plaintiff’s co-workers in a grievance proceeding stemming from a mock lynching, the U.S. Dist. Judge Robert F. Kelly ruled June 20. Kelly said that cases like this one, where a non-union employee attempts to hold a union liable for alleged discriminatory conduct, are “unique.”

Denying summary judgment to IBT Local 676 on Jackson’s claim brought under the N.J. Law Against Discrimination, Kelly found that the facts alleged by the plaintiff could permit a trier of fact to find that the local implicitly gave substantial assistance or encouragement to the creation of a hostile environment.  But Kelly rejected Jackson’s claim that the union’s conduct also violated the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866 because Jackson failed to show that the union intentionally discriminated against him.

In Nov. 1998, Jackson, an employee of T&N Van Service, was grabbed from behind by a white co-worker who forced a noose around his neck and yelled “Skin him!” to two other workers who smiled and laughed. After an investigation by T&N, the workers were suspended, and the company said that it intended to discharge them.  The workers asked the union to help them regain their jobs, and the union concluded that the conduct at issue did not warrant their discharge, the court said. As a result of subsequent grievance proceedings, two of the workers were reinstated.  Jackson charged that Local 676 violated Section 1981 and the NJLAD in its defense of the co-workers, and in its willingness to tolerate an atmosphere of discrimination by and among its members. [BNA 6/26/00]