General Motors says it is offering a $25,000 reward to anyone who has information about racist graffiti and nooses found at a plant in Toledo, Ohio, nearly two years ago.

The reward, which GM said it put up in January, follows a story the Free Press first reported in November that nine black workers are suing GM, alleging the carmaker has allowed racial discrimination and failed to take prompt corrective action after the workers reported acts of racism at the GM Powertrain & Fabrications plant in Toledo.

The lawsuit was filed in September and the racial incidents started in spring of 2017.

“We have zero tolerance for discrimination, and we’re doing everything we can to identify the culprit. This is another step we’ve taken, working with police to intensify the investigation,” GM said in a statement to the Free Press. “We’re outraged that anyone would face threats, and our hearts go out to anyone affected by this bigotry.”

GM said its reward is offered through a CrimeStoppers program administered by Toledo police and the FBI. 

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A noose found on March 22, 2017 at GM Powertrain & Fabrications plant in Toledo. This is one of three nooses allegedly found at the plant. A group of black employees are suing General Motors for allowing alleged racism. (Photo: Mark A. Edwards)

An attorney for the litigants called GM’s reward, “Better late than never.”

“Hopefully it will get some results so that this doesn’t happen again and people learn this is unacceptable behavior,” said Lynn Shecter, partner at the law firm representing the nine plaintiffs, Roy, Shecter and Vocht, in Birmingham, Mich. 

Shecter said there is no court date set yet for the lawsuit.

GM has said it has taken several steps to address the improper behavior, even stopping production to train workers on antiharassment and antidiscrimination policies after a noose was found in March 2017.

“Discrimination and harassment are not acceptable and in stark contrast to how we expect people to show up at work,” GM said in a previous statement. “General Motors is taking this matter seriously and addressing it through the appropriate court process.”

About 1,700 people work at the plant in Toledo. They build 6-speed and 8-speed rear-wheel-drive transmissions and 6-speed front-wheel-drive transmissions for GM trucks, sedans and sports cars.

Workers wrote racist graffiti on bathroom stalls and walls at GM Powertrain & Fabrications plant in Toledo, said a lawsuit against General Motors. (Photo: Mark A. Edwards)

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz released a letter to the media last week saying: “Over the past several weeks, I have met with community leaders, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and the leadership of General Motors North America to discuss the incident. During the meeting with GM leadership, I expressed my concern regarding employees feeling safe and supported when reporting these types of incidents and ongoing efforts to ensure a workplace culture that is free from discrimination and has a ‘no tolerance’ policy for racist acts.”

The mayor said he hopes to work with GM leaders to “ensure a workplace that is safe and supportive to all of their employees and customers, and partner with them to ensure our residents and visitors feel that our community is welcoming.”

Prior to filing the lawsuit, four of the plaintiffs filed complaints with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. In the complaints, they described the nooses and the other incidents of racist actions. In March 2018, the commission found probable cause that “GM engaged in unlawful discriminatory practices.” The commission denied GM’s request in April for reconsideration and ordered GM to “immediately provide its employees with an environment free of harassment, intimidation and hostility.”

It ordered GM to establish an equal employment officer to train employees on antidiscrimination laws and write appropriate policies and procedures for addressing and investigating any future complaints. GM must also establish regular yearly training sessions, with curriculum submitted to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission in advance. 

GM has said it has no knowledge of other racist acts in its Toledo plant.

“We did disagree with the commission’s findings,” GM spokesman Pat Morrissey said. “We fully cooperated with the investigation.”

Contact Jamie L. LaReau at 313-222-2149 or jlareau@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors and sign up for our autos newsletter.

Sourse: usatoday.com

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