Twelve years ago, Coca-Cola settled a racial discrimination case for more than $156 million, the largest of its kind. The world's leading soft-drink manufacturer also agreed to spend $36 million on pro-diversity changes and to allow a panel of outsiders to revise personnel policy. But it wasn't enough, if the claims of 16 black and Hispanic employees are true. They say two Coca-Cola production plants in New York were a "cesspool of racial discrimination," reports New York's Daily News.
The Coca-Cola workers say that they were forced to perform the least desirable assignments, and white employees would taunt them with racial epithets, without facing punishment. The 16 workers have filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court.
One of the Coca-Cola employees, Sondra Walker, says that she was called "Nappy Head" and "Aunt JaMamma," and that one white co-worker came to work one day wearing a Confederate flag over his head, and another, when given a dirty task, said, "What am I, a n***** or something?"
"I thought this was a fair and honest company, as American as apple pie," plaintiff Guillermo Nunez told the Daily News. "I thought I had made it. It was my American Dream."
A Coca-Cola spokesman said that the company doesn't tolerate discrimination. At the end of February, Coca-Cola gave out its fourth "Living the Values" award, which it gives to a U.S.-based law firm which "best demonstrates a commitment to diversity."
"Diversity is more than just a priority for our Legal Division, it is a business imperative and a core value for our Company," Coca-Cola said in its press release.
Coca-Cola's legal division will be forced to test that core value, as it develops its defense.
"We bled; there's no ifs, ands or buts about that," Carl Ware, a Coca-Cola executive said after the company settled its 2000 lawsuit. "Fortunately, that's behind us."