Ex-conductor sues railroad over racial harassment

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News,Business,Race and Diversity

CHICAGO (AP) — A former railroad conductor is alleging in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that a racially hostile environment existed at the Illinois Central Railroad that culminated in a physical assault.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Solomon Perry says he endured racial slurs transmitted on railroad radios and in graffiti left throughout his workplace at the IC's yard in the suburb of Markham. It also alleges that a co-worker attacked Perry in November 2012 by holding him down in a break room and cutting off his dreadlocks.

"I was victimized, I was assaulted and harassed," Perry said during a news conference. "This was a hate crime. I was targeted!"

Perry said railroad officials never took his complaints seriously.

"They called all of these events horseplay, and they advised me to come back to work, get over it, and move on," he said.

However, Illinois Central spokesman Patrick Waldron said the company took disciplinary action against employees involved in the incidents.

"We do not and did not tolerate that type of behavior," Waldron said in a statement. "Illinois Central responded immediately and appropriately that night. The company then conducted a full investigation, after which, the company took appropriate disciplinary action against employees involved in the incident, including the termination of one of those employees."

Railroad officials didn't comment on the lawsuit.

The man who cut Perry's hair, Louis Busch, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to 18 months of court supervision. It was an outcome that left Cook County Circuit Judge Allen Murphy unhappy, WMAQ-TV reported.

"I was absolutely shocked by those facts, and I really am very troubled as to why this case wasn't even investigated as a hate crime," he said during the sentencing hearing. "This case just got swept under the rug and sent off to the misdemeanor courthouse."

In filing the lawsuit against Illinois Central, a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway, attorney Lisa Banks called what Perry endured an egregious case of race discrimination.

"It seems outrageous that in 2014 we're still dealing with this kind of workplace, with this kind of discrimination, with this kind of harassment," she said.

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