A group of Connecticut electricians have filed a lawsuit against Amazon and two contractors, alleging hostile working conditions related to a series of nooses found hanging in a construction site for the company’s Windsor-based distribution center.
In a complaint filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut, five electricians were seeking damages from Amazon, Wayne J. Griffin Electrical, and RC Andersen, who they argue allowed hostile working conditions based on race as a total of eight nooses were discovered hanging at the job site.
“Because the noose was historically used as a tool to kill men of color, it is now used to communicate an intimidating threat of violence,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote. “The appearance of a noose, even one noose, in a workplace sends a clear message of hostility towards the men of color working there: ‘You are not welcome here, and you better watch your back.’
The nooses made national news when they were discovered by a group of Black and brown electrical contractors in the spring of 2021. Although police reported interviewing “persons of interest” in the case, an investigation ultimately resulted in no arrests.
In the 21-page complaint, plaintiffs Dornnel Locke, Jose Nieves, Elvin Gonzalez, Jamal Webber, and Dienus Lesporis allege the three companies failed to take appropriate actions to prevent the series of threatening nooses.
“Plaintiffs are all Black and Brown. Accordingly, they were understandably disturbed to have their workplace infected with these hateful and threatening symbols,” the lawsuit read. “As noose after noose was found at this Amazon site, Plaintiffs rightly complained about Defendants’ failure to remove the hostility from their work environment.”
The lawsuit described racial tensions at the Windsor job site. According to the complaint, the job paired the largely Black and brown electricians with Texas-based ironworkers, who displayed Confederate flag decals on their helmets.
None of the defendants in the lawsuit had filed responses to the allegations in the lawsuit as of Monday morning. The case has been referred to Judge Maria E. Garcia.
Amazon did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Monday. Meanwhile, a representative of Griffin declined to comment on the complaint when reached by phone, while a representative of RC Anderson did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
The plaintiffs also argue that representatives of electrical contractor Griffin and construction manager RC Andersen steered an FBI investigator toward viewing them as suspects, attempting to secure reassignment to more lucrative job assignments, rather than victims in the case.
“The aggressive tone and content of those FBI interviews… immediately alerted Plaintiffs that Griffin and RC Andersen had identified them as potential culprits in the hanging of the nooses,” the lawsuit read.
The complaint describes FBI Agent Ron Offutt as intimidating plaintiff Dienus Lesporis while interviewing him at a Yale jobsite, telling a foreman that officials would “drag him [Lesporis] out” if he did not come outside for questioning and later accusing Lesporis of holding a ladder while another plaintiff hung a noose from construction site rafters.
“Plaintiffs were terrified to be in the crosshairs of an FBI investigation,” the lawsuit read. “As men of color from poor and working-class backgrounds, they all had tenuous relationships with law enforcement. Here, they had vocally complained as witnesses to hateful criminal conduct in their workplace and yet they were now being treated as perpetrators.”