Discrimination suit filed against Turner Industries

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG --  Front from left, the Rev. Peter Johnson; Mike McClanahan, president of the Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP; and Byron Sharper, vice president of the Baton Rouge chapter, chant and march Thursday to a news conference announcing a racial discrimination civil suit against Turner Industries. Scheduled speakers included state NAACP President Ernest Johnson and the Rev. Edward ‘Chipps’ Taylor III. The NAACP groups said they were accompanied by about two dozen people. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Front from left, the Rev. Peter Johnson; Mike McClanahan, president of the Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP; and Byron Sharper, vice president of the Baton Rouge chapter, chant and march Thursday to a news conference announcing a racial discrimination civil suit against Turner Industries. Scheduled speakers included state NAACP President Ernest Johnson and the Rev. Edward ‘Chipps’ Taylor III. The NAACP groups said they were accompanied by about two dozen people.

Turner Industries Group LLC, of Baton Rouge, and a subsidiary, Turner Industrial Maintenance LLC, were sued Thursday by a former employee who alleged the firms ignored instances of race discrimination against black workers.

The plaintiff, Enrico Williams, was not present at a news conference at the Russell B. Long Federal Building in Baton Rouge. One of Williams’ attorneys said Williams was en route from an oilfield job in Canada.

Williams’ attorney, Jay D. Ellwanger, of Austin, Texas, noted that more than 200 other former Turner Industries employees are suing the firm over alleged race discrimination in other cases pending in Texas and Louisiana.

In those other suits, officials of Turner Industries say race discrimination is not tolerated by the firm.

But Turner officials would not discuss the allegations Thursday.

“Turner will not be commenting on this,” said John Fenner, the firm’s in-house counsel. “I cannot provide any comment about current or past litigation.”

Williams alleged in his court suit that Turner unfairly lays off black workers before white employees. He also said he was pressured by supervisors in September 2010 to help them make another employee lawsuit “vanish.”

Williams said he refused and told supervisors he did not know anything about four Turner employees the supervisors believed were about to file a suit against the company.

In February 2012, Williams said, “he blew a 0.0002 on the breathalyzer” during a random drug screen at Turner.

Williams said he “was not under the influence of alcohol when he took the breathalyzer test.”

He said he was chewing tobacco prior to the test and blamed the low-positive reading on that coincidence.

After refusing to admit to having a substance-abuse problem, Williams said, he was fired.

About 25 members of the NAACP’s Louisiana and Southern University chapters attended the news conference Thursday.

Ellwanger noted that Turner Industries’ operations are monitored by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He said that is because the EEOC’s Dallas office reported in 2010 that there was evidence of race discrimination.

Turner’s Fenner declined to discuss the reported EEOC action.