Here in post-racial America, where having a black president gives Americans a carte blanche to throw political and humane correctness to the wind, race is something to be joked about at all times. It's Juneteenth, the day reserved to celebrate the end of slavery? You're conducting a meeting with primarily African-American employees? By all means, hire a man in a gorilla suit to liven up the mood. It's a holiday, after all!
That's exactly what James L. Henry Sr. and Homer Randle III allege happened two years ago. According to the complaint, filed in the Houston division of U.S. District Court, both men had worked as drivers at Carey of Houston, a limousine service. During a training meeting in June, a man in a gorilla suit, who was hired by the company, came to the safety meeting.
Said Christine Cordell, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs: "The character started flirting with men and sitting on laps, and making sexually suggestive 'jokes', and just all around it was unprofessional."
The gorilla appeared at not one but two safety meetings, she said. "They viewed it as horrifically racist."
But not everyone thought so.
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Henry and Randle complained to HR and filed charges of racial discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Cordell said the EEOC called her and said they couldn't figure out if the act was racist or not. "I said, 'Are you kidding me? It's one of the most egregious, overt examples of racism that I've seen in the workplace in 18 years of doing my job.'"
Around the time that Henry and Randle started complaining, the suit says, Carey began reducing their hours. Randle was fired on July 13, said Cordell, less than a month after the incident. Henry's hours were slashed to nearly nothing and his status as a supervisor was taken away.
EEOC eventually reconsidered and issued a cause determination against Carey, which affirmed that racism had taken place.
No one at Carey was available to comment, but we're sure whoever gets back with us isn't racist and has plenty of black friends.