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$168K to end racist noose and ‘rice and beans’ lawsuits against NJ utility

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An example of a noose. (Getty Images)

ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic County Utilities Authority agreed to settle discrimination lawsuits filed by two employees who claimed they endured racist taunts by coworkers. The settlements amounted to nearly $168,000.

Both employees sued the utility in 2015. Scott Henry, a black man, said he found a noose hanging in his work truck in 2009 and again in 2015. Angel Rodriguez also sued after finding the noose in his truck in 2015.

Both said that management’s response to the incidents was to tell coworkers “to stop joking around.”

The lawsuits claimed that management retaliated against them for complaining about their discriminatory treatment.

Henry’s lawsuit described the ACUA work environment as segregated.

Rodriguez said a coworker was allowed to display his Swastika tattoo at work and another routinely used a racial slur to refer to blacks. At least two coworkers showed off Confederate flags on their vehicles.

He claims a coworker, who made fun of Latino colleagues’ accents, said: “I don’t know why they let all these Mexican immigrant inhere … They are always warming up their rice and beans.”

The lawsuit also claimed that less qualified white employees were promoted over Latinos; white drivers were given better vehicles; and Latino part-time workers had to work alone while white part-time employees were provided assistance.

In agreeing to settle the lawsuit, the ACUA did not admit any wrongdoing.

Rodriguez’s lawsuit was settled last June for $70,000; Henry’s lawsuit was settled last May for $97,500. The ACUA provided the settlement agreements to New Jersey 101.5 in response to a request under the Open Public Records Act.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5.

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