North Texas

Workers Targets of Racist Behavior at Sara Lee Plant: EEOC

Federal authorities have determined that black workers at a North Texas food plant were exposed to dangerous work conditions and subjected to racial discrimination and a hostile work environment.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a letter last month found the former workers at the Sara Lee plant in Paris were exposed to asbestos, black mold and other toxins. They also were targets of racial slurs and racial graffiti.

"I witnessed, myself personally, racial discrimination... from seeing the graffiti on the restroom stalls, saying 'go back to Africa you n-word' from me being called a 'boy' when it was time to go to break, 'it's your time to go to break boy' instead of calling me my name," said former Sara Lee employee Damien Franklin.

The workers have since filed a lawsuit pending in federal court.

Franklin's father worked at the plant. His brother, who also worked at the plant, says the issues started when Sara Lee took over plant operations.

"I was there for 15 years," said Derek Franklin who worked for Earth Grains before Sara Lee. "When Sara Lee took over in 2003, everything changed, management changed, the whole atmosphere changed and it made it a hostile work environment for everybody."

Sara Lee ended its Paris operations in 2011 and the company was absorbed by Hillshire Brands, which in turn was bought last year by Tyson Foods.

Tyson spokesman Dan Fogleman says the company thrives on work place diversity and doesn't tolerate the kind of discrimination found by the EEOC.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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