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Lukewarm response to racism leads to walkout

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Eighteen workers filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) against retail hardware supplier Crown Bolt in August to protest racist graffiti in the Carlisle warehouse where they worked.

One morning, the words “Kill the Mexicans, kill the Iraqs [sic], kill the Muslims” appeared on the men’s room wall. When Mohamed Elharragui complained, his manager allegedly said, “Stupid people,” and had the words covered over with marker scribbles. The next day, Elharragui told the Harrisburg Patriot News, someone wrote racist remarks aimed at Allah. Once again, the words were scribbled over, but nothing further was done.

Elharragui, a U.S. citizen who immigrated to the United States eight years ago from Morocco, walked off the job in protest. Seventeen workers, many of whom were immigrants from Somalia and Sudan, joined him. They complained to the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Somali Community of Central Pennsylvania, which took the case to the PHRC.

Their complaint alleges that they have been harassed and denied benefits on the basis of their ancestry and religion. The workers say management should have condemned the graffiti in staff meetings and issued warnings to prevent further racist acts.

Ten of the workers returned to work after Crown Bolt issued an apology. Elharragui, who said the graffiti made him fearful for his life, is looking for a more decisive solution.

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