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'Racial' Paint Names Spark Lawsuit

Thursday, July 3, 2014

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A former Benjamin Moore manager is accusing the company of a "toxic" and discriminatory work environment that includes the use of "appallingly racial" paint color names.

In a lawsuit filed in Essex County Court, Clinton Tucker, who is African American, alleges that the Montvale, NJ-based paint maker fired him from its Digital Marketing Department in March for his repeated complaints about three paint color names.

Tucker had objected to the "despicable and racially insulting paint colors called 'Clinton Brown' and 'Tucker Chocolate,'" according to the suit, as reported by Courthouse News Service. A copy of the complaint was not immediately available.

Images: Benjamin Moore

An attorney for Clinton Tucker, an African American man, says Benjamin Moore named two brown paint shades after Tucker when he worked for the company.

Tucker’s attorney, Charles Schalk, told The Daily Caller that "the allegation is the colors were named after my client."

The suit also alleges that the company's work environment was "toxic" to nonwhites and that Tucker's supervisor belittled his request to take off work on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Company: 'No Merit'

Kimberlee M. Bradshaw, director of communications for Benjamin Moore, said in an emailed statement Monday (June 30):

"As a matter of policy, Benjamin Moore does not comment on active litigation matters except to say that we believe this particular suit has no merit and the company will vigorously defend these claims."

'Awkward Silence'

Tucker, who is also gay, began work at Benjamin Moore in June 2011. "[I]t was clear to the plaintiff that he was not part of the traditional culture" of the company, said several news outlets, quoting the complaint.

Problems reportedly escalated when Tucker launched the online arm of the company's Main Street Matters campaign. One of the colors launched in that campaign was Tucker Chocolate, part of the Williamsburg Color Collection. (The collection also includes Tucker Orange and Tucker Gray.)

StGeorgeTucker House

Benjamin Moore says the deep brown color Tucker Chocolate reflects "the 1798 color requested by St. George Tucker for his home facing Courthouse Green." The home (pictured) was owned by St. George Tucker, a Revolutionary War officer, according to the Colonial Williamsburg organization.

The suit says that "being a black man named Clinton Tucker, the plaintiff found this to be extremely racially offensive" and that "when this was mentioned at a meeting with at least eight people including his supervisor, this was met with awkward silence."

He adds that a co-worker once pointed out to him that the company had a color called Clinton Brown "and thought it was funny."

Color Stories

At a meeting in which employees were discussing their favorite Benjamin Moore colors, Tucker says, he "turned to his supervisor, who at this point was well aware of his disdain, [and] stated, 'well you know my least favorite colors.'"

The supervisor then allegedly "turned to her Vice President, Nick Harris, and said, 'Well you know about Clinton Brown and Tucker Chocolate.'"

The suit adds: "Harris acted shocked even though it had long been the disgusting and distasteful joke of the group."

On its website, Benjamin Moore describes Tucker Chocolate as “capturing the 1798 color requested by St. George Tucker for his home facing Courthouse Green. The deep brown "is classic and understated.”

Of the color Clinton Brown, the company says: "A childhood favorite treat matures into adult style chic in this perfectly balanced chocolate candy bar brown."

Confederate Red

Tucker also took issue with the Benjamin Moore shade named Confederate Red.

Confederate Red

Tucker also objected to Confederate Red, a color the company calls a "timeless and enduring classic."

The company describes the "rich, refined red" as a "timeless and enduring classic."

“Despite Mr. Tucker’s repeated complaints and protestations to [Benjamin Moore] management about these appallingly racial color names, no action was ever taken,” Tucker’s suit reads.

All three colors remained available Wednesday (July 2) on Benjamin Moore's online Color Gallery.


Tagged categories: Benjamin Moore; Color; Color + Design; Interior Wall Coatings; Lawsuits; Marketing

Comment from john lienert, (7/3/2014, 1:28 AM)

just what our legal system needs.....another pointless , frivolous lawsuit

Comment from MICHAEL PORTER, (7/5/2014, 3:49 PM)

I think the names area coincidental and not a direct attack on Mr. Tucker. I also believe that Mr. Tucker may be a bit oversensitive in regards to this matter. Not being there, none of us know how often these names were brought to Mr. Tucker's attention & in what context. Hopefully this all goes away & Mr. Tucker finds a work environment that he is comfortable with. Now if Benjamin Moore has other examples of poor name choices, such as Klan White, then by all means pursue the lawsuit... otherwise relax!!

Comment from Paul Braun, (7/8/2014, 10:51 AM)

If these colors have been in the portfolio before Tucker’s time at the company, I have no problem with the coincidence. There is a problem that needs to be addresses at Benjamin Moore if Tucker's coworkers feel it's acceptable in the company culture to make racially offensive jokes about his name. It is a workplace, and he deserves respect. I would feel very uncomfortable in a place that thinks a product called "rebel red" is appropriate.

Comment from Richard Atkins, (7/10/2014, 4:31 PM)

I think that a lot of people should relax, work hard and go home. Then watch the Red Skins on TV !!!

Comment from M. Halliwell, (7/17/2014, 10:44 AM)

I guess it depends on context and meaning... Paul, given the number of different “Tucker” colors and number of Clintons in the world (first and last name), I don't think the color names are the issue. I would agree that it is more likely the lack of respect in the workplace. Confederate Red may rub some folks the wrong way, but given the success of the Star Wars franchise, "Rebel Red" may not be that inappropriate (again, depending on context and meaning). Richard, you're not being politically correct!! Some folks are offended by the name of that team (and that's probably your point ;) ).

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