KKK Hoods In The Workplace: 1996 And Now

Some folks have great memories, others cannot forget certain events.

Recall that I wrote last week about a lawsuit filed by the EEOC which alleges that a black employee at a Texas company “reported that his coworkers had used a white hood – evocative of the type used by the Ku Klux Klan – to intimidate, ridicule and insult him.”

A reader, Bill Wells, Lt Col, USAF, JAGC (Ret), emailed to say that this case reminded him of a similar incident – in 1996.  He noted that “My recollection is that it ended with the hood wearers being disciplined and an EEOC decision in favor of the complaints, but I can’t manage to confirm that at the moment.”

The case he was reminded of was discussed in an LA Times article from 12/3/96 – more than 20 years ago:

“Two black aircraft mechanics at Kelly Air Force Base said Monday they were harassed by co-workers who rode in a government van and wore pillowcases that looked like Ku Klux Klan hoods. … both mechanics at the reservist 433rd Airlift Wing, said they also were subjected to other incidents of racial harassment at Kelly before filing administrative complaints with the Air Force over the Sept. 16 van episode.

‘You put up with sly remarks, you put up with little innuendoes, but this is where I draw the line,’ [one]s said. ‘I’m not going to be subjected to anything like that.’ …

According to an Air Force memo, the four in the van Sept. 16 said that they intended their action as a ‘joke’ and that they were pretending to be terrorists.”

Takeaway:  I was struck by the fact that no one would dare to “pretend to be terrorists” today, but wearing KKK hoods – well, that’s still somehow OK twenty years later.

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]