Lawsuit: Company ignored racism, punished complainants

Kent County

BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Byron Center company that services the trucking industry is under fire Tuesday after a lawsuit claims that two employees were the targets of extraordinary racism.

The suit alleges the company not only knew of the racism but punished the employees when they made complaints.

The allegations are against Pace Transportation, 8788 Byron Commerce Drive SW near 84th Street and U.S. 181 in Byron Township.

“The stuff that occurred here was so bad that I don’t think I can speak about it on the air. I don’t think I can say some of the things that were said,” said Jon Marko, a well-known civil rights attorney.

Marko has won multi-million dollar discrimination suits, including an $11 million judgment last year against the Michigan Department of Corrections.

“The economy may be slugging a little bit but civil injustice, racism, discrimination — it’s at an all-time high,” Marko said Tuesday.

In the case filed in Kent County Circuit Court, Javon Norman and Roman Arizola, Pace Transportation employees, claim they have been subjected to years of discriminatory and racist remarks.

According to the suit, there were relentless instances of crude and brutal racist language as well as nooses were hung in the shop and threats of violence.

A Snapchat video allegedly shared among employees with the caption “doing a (n-word)s job!! Picking cotton again wtf” is among the evidence.

“We have evidence, we have a video. No one in their right mind could watch that video and say that it’s not racist,” Marko said.

The suit claims that a customer complained using a racial slur about Norman working on his trailer and the manager and foreman embarrassingly removed Norman from that job and apologized to the driver for allowing Norman to work on his trailer.

Marko says he reached out to Pace management a month ago, but they never responded.

“This isn’t shop talk, this is if you tried to think of the worst most racist, repugnant things that you could say to someone, this is it,” Marko said. “This was right out in the open. It was done on purpose. This wasn’t a stray remark or a bad joke or something that someone maybe took the wrong way. This was intentional, blatant racism and it was a hostile work environment.”

Arizola recently left the company after four years. Norman is scared to go back to work, although the company has offered to transfer him to another location.

“Which to me is horrible that you’re going to relocate the person who’s being treated like subhuman, and you’re going to make them relocate instead of taking action against the perpetrators,” Marko said.

In a statement to News 8 late Tuesday, the company said it did take action when they were made aware of the allegations resulting in terminations and discipline of those who violated its zero-tolerance policy.

“We are very troubled that this situation occurred within our company, and we sincerely apologize to Javon Norman and Roman Arizola,” the statement read. “We have taken the concerns seriously from day one.”

The company also apologized to the men, saying it is engaging an independent consulting firm to educate and train employees regarding diversity and inclusion.

The lawsuit claims that the company violated the state’s anti-discrimination law, known as the Elliott-Larsen Act. The suit asking for compensation for the loss of wages and compensation for their suffering.

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