A lawsuit alleges a homebuilding company created a hostile working environment and discriminated against three Black employees, one of whom reportedly attended an “all hands training” meeting where a noose was displayed.
The complaint was filed on behalf of three former employees earlier this month in Michigan’s Ingham County Circuit Court against PulteGroup, a residential home construction company that was founded in the state and is now based in Georgia.
One of the plaintiffs, Idus Hartsfield, who worked as a customer care manager in the warranty department, attended what the lawsuit refers to as the “noose meeting” in November 2019. During the training meeting, a white supervisor allegedly “waved the noose” in front of the staff, which included at least two Black workers, “while warning them ‘not to hang themselves,’ to intimidate the employees who were in attendance,” according to the complaint.
“Hartsfield experienced emotional distress and anxiety related to his employment with PulteGroup” due to the “noose meeting,” the complaint states.
Hartsfield complained to human resources that the incident “made him highly uncomfortable” but the lawsuit claims nothing was done to address it. After complaining, Hartsfield was written up for “non-issues” and eventually terminated in May 2020 after more than four years of employment “despite his excellent performance,” according to the lawsuit.
The complaint, which includes photos of alleged meeting with the noose, alleges Hartsfield “suffered unlawful retaliation” for reporting the incident and that race was a motivating factor in his termination.
In a statement to ABC Lansing affiliate WLAJ, a PulteGroup spokesperson called the images “despicable.”
“Our company leadership is committed to ensuring an environment of inclusion where all people are respected and valued,” PulteGroup spokesperson Jim Zeumer said in the statement. “What is depicted in the images is despicable and has no place in our company nor in our society. The allegations are not consistent with our values and corporate culture.”
Another plaintiff, Roderick Hunter, was fired in December 2021, within six months of being employed with PulteGroup, according to the complaint. The lawsuit also alleges race was a motivating factor in his termination because his supervisor “did not want an older Black male working as his field manager.” The supervisor was the same one who allegedly brought the noose to the meeting, according to the complaint.
The third plaintiff, Richard Turnbow, was allegedly “humiliated” in front of colleagues by the same supervisor for not arriving to a training meeting at least 15 minutes early and was ordered to collect trash around the office, according to the complaint. Turnbow quit in October 2022, nine months after he was hired as an assistant customer service representative, according to the complaint.
“PulteGroup, through its management and supervisory personnel, created a hostile work environment for plaintiffs by subjecting them each to degrading, demeaning, humiliating, and offensive treatment on the basis of their race, which had the effect of unreasonably interfering with plaintiffs’ work environment,” the complaint states.
The plaintiffs, who all reside in Georgia, are demanding a trial by jury and seeking at least $25,000 in damages, according to the complaint.