Construction workers helping build Facebooks new San Francisco tower allege that coworkers used racial slurs in graffiti and threatened them.

KCBS Radio

Workers Allege They Lost Jobs After Complaining About Racial Bias At Construction Site

Bob Butler
June 21, 2018 - 9:17 pm

Three African American men who've worked at the construction site of a San Francisco office tower allege that coworkers used racial slurs and made violent threats against them. 

Two of the men, Craig Ogans and Douglas Russell claimed on Thursday that they lost their high-paying positions as elevator operators there after complaining about the discrimination in April. The third worker still has a job building the 47-story tower where Facebook has leased space in the SoMa neighborhood.

In the office of their attorney John Burris, the two former elevator operators showed photos of the discrimination that they claim they confronted during their two months on the job.

One picture showed a crude message laced with a racist slur that they said appeared in a portable bathroom at the building. Another showed three, small black dolls hanging from nooses found inside another porta-potty in April. 

That last discovery prompted Ogans to call the police. 

"I got really, really fearful that I was working in a real hostile environment," Ogans said. 

On one occasion, Russell claimed that a white coworker tried several times to hit him, though he was able to avoid the punches. That incident was allegedly recorded, though video was not shown to the media. 

"Why should the men who have been subject to all of the racial slurs and bigotry, why should they have to leave the job?" Burris said. 

A formal complaint has been filed by their attorney with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. It's the first step toward launching a lawsuit against Clark Construction, the Maryland-based company that is building the skyscraper. The men worked for Bigger Crane, a subcontractor on the project. 

A spokesman for Clark told KCBS Radio that they notified police in April after learning the workers' complaints. Contractors and subcontractors have also undergone sensitivity training, the company said in a statement. 

"Clark does not tolerate harassment or discriminatory behavior," the statement said.