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Workers Win $3.4M in Race Case

Friday, April 8, 2016

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A federal jury has ordered a Bridgeport, CT-based striping company to pay more than $1.5 million each to two former employees who filed a racial discrimination and hostile work environment lawsuit against it.

Yosif Bakhit, who is a native of Sudan and Muslim, and Kiyada Miles, who is African-American, were jointly awarded $3.4 million for what they described as years of racial abuse while working for Safety Marking Inc., the CT Post reported.

“We think this is a significant verdict,” Lewis Chimes, an attorney for Bakhit and Miles, told the New Haven Register. “It says in our community that we are not going to put up with this type of behavior.”

roadway markings
© iStock.com / BobHemphill

A federal jury has ordered striping company Safety Marking Inc. to pay more than $1.5 million each to two former employees who filed a racial discrimination and hostile work environment lawsuit against it.

According to court documents, the men’s complaint claimed that Safety Markings and the several individuals named in it were “each liable to each of the plaintiffs for the torts of intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.”

As a result, jurors hearing the federal trial recommended the company pay $1.4 million in punitive damages to each man for its role in fostering a hostile working environment, as well as for race discrimination.

Additionally, the court awarded Bakhit an additional $100,000 from three coworkers named in the suit. Miles was also ordered to receive another $100,000 divided between four of his coworkers named in the suit.

Their attorney indicated the men were awarded compensatory damages as well: $300,000 for Bakhit and $85,000 for Miles.

Mark Kelly, Safety Marking’s president, declined to comment on the verdict to PaintSquare News, saying only that the company's lawyers are preparing to challenge it through post-trial motions and, if necessary, an appeal.

A Hostile Environment

Both men began working for the company in 2008, according to the federal civil complaint, and experienced a “hostile environment that has been rife with the use of racial and ethnic slurs and derogatory remarks and jokes” throughout the duration of their employment.

Among the examples cited in the complaint, one of the defendants asked Bakhit to open a medicine bottle for him. After he did so and pulled the cotton ball out of the bottle, the named defendant responded, “I just wanted to see [a] black man pick cotton.”

In another incident, while painting a highway, one named defendant told Bakhit, “I should paint you white,” and later, another named defendant purposely sprayed Miles’ arm white, pointed to it and said, “That’s the only way you are going to move up in the company.”

Miles and Bakhit complained about ongoing incidents like these to their immediate supervisors and to Kelly but did not see conditions improve, the documents stated.   

Moreover, 19 days after he filed a formal written complaint with Kelly, Bakhit’s car windshield was shattered, records state. After he reported it to police and through counsel to the company, Safety Markings indicated it would arrange anti-discrimination training for its employees.

Additionally, despite positive performance reviews, Bakhit remained in the lowest employment ranks in the company, and Miles, despite achieving a position advancement, was demoted back to the lowest ranks, the documents indicated. The two employees alleged less experienced white employees were given more favorable treatment.

Chimes told the Post a supervisor made Bakhit “work harder than other, white employees on the job sites and consistently gave him the most brutal and tiresome assignments to be completed.”

He also noted that this was a clear-cut case of racism and discrimination.

“This was not a case that dealt with political correctness or oversensitivity,” he said after the March 25 verdict. “The things that were in existence here were awful.”

About the Company

According to the company’s website, Safety Marking is an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity Employer providing full-service highway and roadway marking company and expertise in every aspect of pavement marking.

In business since 1973, it serves seven states, including all of New England and southeastern New York. It names John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Teterboro Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport among recent re-striping jobs.

Services include epoxy pavement markings, thermoplastic pavement markings, airport marking, stage construction, specialty items and parking lot striping, the site says.

   

Tagged categories: Airports; Coating Application; Infrastructure; Lawsuits; North America; Roads/Highways; Stripe coating; Striping

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