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Ex-employee's suit alleges Romulus firm kept noose hung

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

An African-American man has sued a Romulus truck trailer manufacturer, saying a noose was hung at the company twice while he worked there as part of a series of racial incidents aimed at intimidating him.

Jermaine Ware, a Detroit resident, filed a lawsuit in March in Wayne County Circuit Court alleging that a noose was hung in plain sight at Benlee Inc.

On or about Oct. 30, 2018, a 13-coil "hangman's" noose was displayed at eye level from the ceiling and attached to a garage door inside the business and remained there nearly two months, according to the lawsuit.

A second noose was found hanging the following May on a storage rack in the area of the company where Ware worked.

"The racial harassment of Ware was continual, pervasive, and severe enough to create a hostile work environment," according to the lawsuit. "Because of the adverse work environment and ongoing racially motivated unwelcome conduct and communications toward Ware, he began missing days of work — calling in — because of the emotional distress, humiliation, fright, indignity, and mental anguish he suffered at Benlee."

Ware was discharged from the company around October 2019, according to the suit.

But "even though the working conditions were racially hostile toward African Americans," Ware tried unsuccessfully tried to get his job back, the complaint says.

Ware's attorney, Jonathan Marko, said Monday his client sought to go back to the company because "he needed money. He needed to support his family. Certainly sometimes we have to endure constitutional and hostile environments to support our families and that's what he did."

The lawsuit quotes Benlee officials as saying "the noose was not used to create a racially hostile work environment but only used as a handle to raise and lower one of the inoperable sliding garage doors in the shop area, until repair."

Benlee's attorneys declined to discuss the lawsuit Monday.

"We don't have any comment on pending litigation against our clients," said Marcus McCray, an attorney with the law firm Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone