$99K awarded to CTA electrician who claimed harassment at work, including noose hung at a rail garage
CHICAGO - A federal jury has ordered the CTA to pay $99,000 to a Black electrician who claimed he faced retaliation at work — including a noose hung at a rail garage — after he complained of racial discrimination.
Lasona McKinney filed his complaint in October of 2018, alleging a white foreman moved him from working Red Line stations near his home in Dolton to Blue Line stations on the Far North Side to "make room for some newly hired white electricians," according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
The lawsuit contended the "unwanted move," was orchestrated by his foreman "because of Mr. McKinney’s race."
After McKinney was moved to Blue Line stations, his CTA vehicle was taken away, according to the suit, making him the only electrician without a vehicle. McKinney said he was forced to take public transportation — with his tools and equipment — to his work sites.
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McKinney said he complained to the CTA’s Equal Employment Opportunity office that he was subjected to racial discrimination, but no actions were taken and McKinney instead faced retaliation, according to the suit.
"A co-worker left a toy rat in his work space; he was subject to personal surveillance; co-workers refused to perform work when they had to do jobs together," the suit states.
A noose was hung at the 54th Street Rail Garage, where McKinney was sent to inspect electrical boxes, according to the suit and a statement from his lawyer, Paul Strauss. Other electricians would not help McKinney at work, telling him they were acting on instructions from the foreman, Strauss said.
McKinney was also denied keys, including one to the bathroom ,and not given the same personal protective equipment as more junior white electricians, the suit charges.
The years of retaliation caused McKinney severe emotional distress, according to Strauss, including bouts of depression and anxiety.
On Friday, a jury ruled McKinney was subject to a hostile work environment because he had complained about racial discrimination. But jurors sided with the CTA’s claim that the hostile work environment was not because of his race.
"For years I literally begged the CTA’s EEO department and CTA management to help me," McKinney said in a statement after the verdict. "They wouldn’t do anything, they brushed it under the rug. The jury did the investigation the CTA should have."
The CTA said Monday it disagrees with the jury’s finding that it retaliated against McKinney, citing the fact the jury ruled in CTA’s favor on the claim that he was subjected to a hostile work environment because of his race.
The CTA said it will review its legal options over this "split verdict."