Amtrak Sued for Discrimination
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Seven black managers at Amtrak sued the passenger railroad Thursday, charging its senior management with fostering hostile work conditions and denying them promotions.
They were joined by several former black managers at Amtrak, applicants who were not hired and a white woman who accused the company of punishing her for trying to combat racial discrimination.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, grew out of a similar one filed in April by track construction and maintenance workers in the Northeast.
``After we filed that complaint, we received a flood of calls from Amtrak employees that led us to believe that the extent of racial discrimination is much broader than the first lawsuit,″ said Michael Leider, an attorney involved with both complaints.
The latest lawsuit seeks changes in the company’s employment and disciplinary policies and unspecified awards for back pay, mental anguish, attorneys’ fees and punitive damages.
The plantiffs’ attorneys believe damages could exceed $100 million if the case is accepted as a class-action lawsuit covering about 700 black managers at Amtrak and an estimated 2,500 rejected applicants.
Amtrak officials, who refused to comment on the specific allegations, said they had programs in place to promote diversity, train supervisors and investigate complaints.
``Amtrak has a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory practices in hiring or in any aspect of the workplace,″ said George D. Warrington, Amtrak’s acting president and chief executive.
The 13 former or current employees and applicants who filed the lawsuit said they were subject to repeated racial discrimination, including retaliation. They accused senior managers of making racially derogatory statements and of failing to investigate complaints.
Many of them said they were demoted or denied advancement opportunities after they spoke out.
``I watched the hostility toward blacks intensify, watched opportunities for blacks to be promoted disappear and watched the hiring of blacks to significant positions disappear as well,″ said Brett Tyler, who is black and worked as an Amtrak human resources manager in Washington until earlier this year.
Samuel Tillie, a Langhorne, Pa., resident who works as a customer services manager in New York, said he was made to feel unwelcome because he is black.
``It was obvious every time I walked into a room that I was offensive,″ Tillie said.