Ex-Boeing worker claims racism, retaliation in firing
Allen Adgerson claims Boeing fired him because he complained about racism in the airplane manufacturer's paint shop in North Charleston.
But according to Boeing, the Orangeburg County man was terminated a year ago because he put a co-worker in a "choke hold."
Whatever happened, the situation is now a federal case. Adgerson filed a lawsuit against the aerospace giant late last month, alleging racial discrimination and retaliation.
On Friday, Boeing denied the allegations and asked that the complaint be dismissed.
A Boeing South Carolina spokeswoman released a statement about the case Monday, noting Boeing's "longstanding, strong and effective policies against discrimination and harassment."
"We take all workplace conduct rules extremely seriously, and that includes rules prohibiting workplace violence," it said. "Employees who engage in workplace violence risk immediate termination."
Adgerson's attorney, Benjamin Mabry of Columbia, said, "We look forward to proving our case in court."
From the filings so far, this much is clear:
At some point before Adgerson was fired, a white employee reported to Boeing management that other white employees in the paint shop had made inappropriate racial comments.
An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation followed, during which Adgerson was interviewed. He was fired in February 2011 after an incident with a co-worker.
Both sides agree on all of that. It's what happened around those events that's in dispute.
Adgerson's lawsuit goes into more detail about the alleged offensive comments. In the Jan. 26 filing, Adgerson, who is black, claims a white employee "talked about lynching and burning black people."
"White employees also referred to blacks as monkeys and if not for financial aid, blacks would have no education," the suit alleges. "One employee sang a song about hanging blacks from a tree."
According to Adgerson's suit, the white employee who reported the comments to management was transferred from the paint shop, yet Adgerson's request for a transfer on the basis of the racial tension there was denied.
Boeing acknowledges "discussions with (Adgerson) regarding reassignment," but the company filing does not say what became of them.
In its filing last week, Boeing said Adgerson was "terminated for grabbing another employee from behind and putting him in a choke hold without provocation." According to Boeing, Adgerson "admitted that his conduct was inappropriate, in violation of Boeing's policies and warranted dismissal," and therefore shouldn't be allowed to sue for damages now.
Adgerson, on the other hand, claims the employee "cursed him and that the conduct he was accused of was not accurate and any conduct (he) engaged in was common and acceptable behavior at Boeing."
Last month, the company successfully defended a separate retaliation suit brought by another former Boeing South Carolina employee.
Boeing's local operation, which now consists of more than 5,900 employees and contractors, is set to deliver its first 787 Dreamliner to Air India sometime this spring.
Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906.