BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - A federal court jury has awarded $25 million in damages
to a western New York steel plant employee who says his bosses failed to
stop years of racial taunts and insults from his co-workers, behavior his
lawyer likened to something out of the 1950s.
The jury on Tuesday found Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal and some of its
former executives responsible for the treatment Elijah Turley endured while
working at the company's now-closed Buffalo-area steel plant, according to
the Buffalo News.
During the trial, Turley, who is black, testified that "KKK" and "King Kong"
graffiti were written on the walls of the plant and a stuffed monkey with a
noose around its neck was found hanging from his driver's side mirror.
"It's absolutely shocking that a case like this is in court in 2012,"
Turley's lawyer, Ryan J. Mills, told the jury. "It should be viewed as
atrocious and intolerable in a civilized society."
Turley testified during the three-week trial that the harassment happened
from 2005 to 2008 while he worked operating equipment that removes
impurities from metals at the plant in Lackawanna. He said the experience
changed his life and left him physically and emotionally damaged.
"This case is about the breakdown of a man," Mills said. "He wanted to be
treated equally, treated equally in a culture that hadn't changed since the
ArcelorMittal lawyers acknowledged during the trial that Turley's
description of the abuse was largely accurate, but argued it amounted to
common "trash-talking" and executives took steps to stop it, including
hiring a private investigator, installing security cameras and suspending
"We are astonished by today's decision and consider the compensatory and
punitive damages figure excessive," ArcelorMittal said in the statement
after the verdict. "We are disappointed that the jury ruled in favor of the
plaintiff as we believe that the plaintiff's claims were unfounded."
The company indicated it might appeal.
Production at Lackawanna ended in 2009. ArcelorMittal continues to operate
other plants in the U.S.