African-American FCA worker says she was taunted with toy monkeys
After years of alleged racial abuse and discrimination, an African-American woman has filed a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
On Monday, Valarie Davis filed her lawsuit in United States District Court Eastern District of Michigan, alleging Fiat Chrysler did nothing to stop racial harassment that included comparing her to a monkey and leaving toy monkeys in her work area.
The suit also alleges Davis’ co-workers mocked her for “living in the ghetto” while she lived in Detroit and asking her, while she was pregnant, if black women gave chocolate breast milk.
Married, Davis, 47, and her family now resides in Grosse Pointe Woods.
On March 20, Davis filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On Aug. 10, she received a “right to sue” letter from the commission.
After the suit was filed, Fiat Chrysler released the following statement: “FCA US LLC prohibits workplace discrimination and does not tolerate harassment of any kind. The company takes complaints of discrimination and harassment seriously and investigates complaints in a timely and impartial manner.
“Employees who violate this policy face disciplinary action up to and including discharge. FCA uses its best efforts to protect the privacy of all individuals involved throughout the investigation process.”
In the suit, Davis’ attorneys, Akeel & Valentine, PLC, described the plaintiff as an accomplished employee of Fiat Chrysler since March 2000. Her attorneys identified her as “the first and only African-American female clay modeler to work for FCA,” stating she “was asked to travel to Italy to deliver a model of the interior of an Alfa Romeo sports car she sculpted.”
According to the suit, Davis’ problems began in early 2004 when employees would whistle when she passed by them. It was later explained to her the whistle came from a device used to mimic and call monkeys.
Davis alleges that at other times co-workers referred to her as a “chicky monkey” and as “the little brown friend.”
Davis alleges that in 2013, monkeys in various forms (stuffed, toy, images, calendars, blow up and even in a Valentine’s Day card) began to appear in areas where she worked, including one with Christmas lights wrapped around its neck which was hanging near her work area.
Attorneys for Davis stated their client made repeated complaints to Fiat Chrysler human resources over the years but to no avail. Davis’ attorneys further allege that if Davis had been white, the discrimination would not have occurred.
Attorneys have asked the court to award a judgment against Fiat Chrysler for economic and non-economic damages to Davis, in addition to punitive or exemplary damages, costs and attorney fees.