Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times, July 30, 2006
When Karen Gildart called me about a young man who had been subjected to racial slurs on the job, I assumed the man was black. After all, it is not unusual for me to hear from African Americans who claim they have been discriminated against in the workplace. Gildart, who is black, is a union representative at the Cardiss Collins Processing and Distribution Center, commonly known as the O’Hare Post Office branch.
But she wasn’t the one claiming that she had been racially and sexually harassed.
Gildart wanted me to talk to Michael Schulz, a mail handler who has worked at the airport post office since 1998. Schulz is white.
“I was working at a unit with a few other workers, and one of my co-workers wasn’t satisfied with my work performance. He got upset and called me an “f—— white boy,” Schulz said. “Another co-worker heard him say it.”
In fact, Schulz reported to his supervisors, Gildart, and to the Postal Police that the co-worker, an African-American male (whom I’m not naming because this matter is still under investigation) called him a “neo-Nazi white boy.”
His statement, filed with the Postal Police on May 18, also claims his alleged abuser said: “He was going to f— me in the a–, and that we were going to dance naked together, and he was going to get me.”
After a little digging, a spokesman for the Chicago District Post Office told me on Friday that the “investigation into the incident is ongoing and continuing.
Yet a letter addressed to Schulz signed by the district manager, John L. Richardson, and dated July 13 advised Schulz that managers followed proper procedures in handling the alleged threat.
Work force overwhelmingly black
“All parties involved have been informed of the zero-tolerance policy on acts of threats of violence in the workplace,” Schulz was told.
He has since filed complaints with the inspector general, postal police, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The postal facility is about 80 percent to 90 percent black, Gildart said. As a union representative, she’s had to deal with other racial incidents in which whites claimed they were being discriminated against by black co-workers.
EEOC ruling appealed
According to Gildart, when Schulz continued to demand that his co-worker be disciplined, the acting plant manager allegedly threatened to get him fired.
Schulz’s accusations are documented in painstaking detail. The thick packet contains copies of letters, formal complaint forms and filings with the EEOC. Schulz also got one other African-American who heard the comments to write a witness statement.
Last month, the EEOC ruled that the nasty names did not cause Schulz to “suffer a direct or personal deprivation” and that a few “isolated incidents of alleged harassment are insufficient to show a hostile or abusive working environment.”
Schulz has filed an appeal.
“If a white person would have called a black person a ‘nigger’ the plant manager, who is black, would have taken some action,” he said.
No matter what may be going on behind the scenes, you really can’t argue with that.