Ex-Worker Sees Racism in Paint Names
A fired African American employee of Benjamin Moore has accused the paint maker of discrimination in using two brown color names that resemble his own.
In a lawsuit filed in Essex County Court, Clinton Tucker alleges that Benjamin Moore fired him after he repeatedly complained about the company's "despicable and racially insulting paint colors called 'Clinton Brown' and 'Tucker Chocolate,'" according to a report by Courthouse News Service.
A copy of the 16-page lawsuit was not immediately available.
Tucker, who is also gay, joined the Montvale, NJ-based company in June 2011 in the Digital Marketing Department. "[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 Williamsburg Collection also includes Tucker Orange and Tucker Gray.)
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 Benjamin Moore co-worker once pointed out to him that the company had a color called Clinton Brown "and thought it was funny."
'My Least Favorite Colors'
Tucker’s attorney, Charles Schalk, told The Daily Caller that "the allegation is the colors were named after my client."
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 Clinton Brown, the company says: "A childhood favorite treat matures into adult style chic in this perfectly balanced chocolate candy bar brown."
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.
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."
Tucker also took issue with the Benjamin Moore shade named Confederate Red. 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, pointing out that the company still sells the paint colors at its stores and online.
Tucker also objected to Confederate Red, which the company called a "timeless and enduring classic."
Tucker also claimed that the company's work environment was "toxic" to nonwhites and that his supervisor belittled his request to take off on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Tucker was fired in March 2014.
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."
This post was updated at 9:09 a.m. ET July 2, 2014, with an additional photo.