By Rick Sallinger

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – An African American man won his case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after complaining there was a noose in his workplace.

“It means lynching, means hurt, pain, suffering it means obedience,” Sidney Dawson, 35, told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger.

An Aurora man wins his EEOC case against his former employer. (credit: CBS)

Dawson was working through a temporary agency at Barton Supply Company in Aurora in 2017. The company makes “rebar” and other construction-related material. He was in the warehouse and says someone pointed out a noose to him.

Angered, he took a picture and cut it down.

“It means do not defy, do not stand up it. It means obey everything without question,” he said.

After complaining to the company he was later fired then he filed a formal complaint with the EEOC which now has found “reasonable cause” to believe that Dawson was subjected to a “racially hostile environment” and fired because of his race and/or retaliation.

The company denies that and has insisted Dawson was let go with all temporary workers at the time. Two years after contacting the EEOC, the federal agency tracked him down on Facebook.

Dawson was surprised by their words.

“‘Hey, we are trying to find contact with you,'” he explained. “My phone was cut off since I filed charges. I changed addresses, everything.”

Dawson or the EEOC could still file a lawsuit against the company if a settlement is not reached.

A payment has already been discussed.

Community activist Alvertis Simmons has been acting on behalf of Dawson communicating with the company and media. Simmons was involved in an incident in 2006 when black and Hispanic workers complained of nooses and other racially-charged material in their workplace, Albertson’s.

It agreed to pay $8.9 million to settle the EEOC lawsuit.

“It’s not about money. It’s about seeking justice from the entire situation,” Dawson said.

The company issued a statement saying:

“Barton Supply Company has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination or racist behavior. We are committed to a corporate culture that attracts diverse talent, provides equitable opportunities for advancement, and respects every employee’s unique perspectives, culture and beliefs.

We have devoted substantial time and resources to reaching an equitable resolution to the concerns raised by a former employee who worked with Barton Supply Company for a few  weeks in 2017. We are committed to providing ongoing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)  training to our current and future employees. The former employee also agreed to and finalized significant financial settlement.

We also are putting into place a clear reporting protocol so any potential future incidents will be immediately identified, reported and handled appropriately. Again, we have zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior, and we have a moral and legal obligation to create a safe environment for all of our team members, more than a third of whom are Latino or Black.

We also understand it is important to educate our staff about inappropriate behaviors, particularly in regard to racial issues.

We understand that our words can only go so far, and that we are judged by the totality of our actions supporting our fully inclusive mission across our company. This mission is also reflected in our commitment to community service, and our support of organizations focused on homelessness and providing better housing options.

In Aurora specifically, we support Habitat for Humanity, Hope House, World Vision and several faith-based community organizations – most notably Groundwire.”

Rick Sallinger

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