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Workers told to ‘Go back and pick cotton’

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Darryl Hall, a black warehouse worker for Detroit Forming Inc., will have his day in court after the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling on his race discrimination case. Hall testified that company owner Leigh Rodney told workers at a shift meeting that if they didn’t like the way he ran the company, they could “go back and pick cotton.”

Hall also said Rodney once told his dog to sic him, saying the dog was trained to bite black men. The dog did in fact try to bite Hall. Rodney said that incident was just a joke he made because, in his experience, black people are more afraid of dogs than white people are and that this was a “discussed fact.”

Later, a warehouse supervisor position opened up, and Hall and several other employees interviewed for the job. The applicants were gathered outside the interview room when the first candidate, Mark Gildon, was called in to meet with management. Hall and another applicant overheard Gildon—who is white—say he “refused to take orders from a black man.” Gildon got the job. When Hall protested, pointing out that he had more seniority, a manager told him “seniority don’t mean nothing.”

While questions remain as to whether some of the incidents fell outside the three-year statute of limitations for discrimination cases, the evidence was compelling enough for the appellate court to send it to trial.

Note: Someone ought to tell Rodney to “go fetch” some common decency. The case is a good reminder that racism has not been eradicated from society.

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