Six former and current Minneapolis Convention Center employees have filed a lawsuit against the city and their supervisors alleging discrimination.
Five of the employees were fired from their jobs in the convention center's facilities department within the last few years, and one still works there. According to the lawsuit, the five who were fired lost their jobs after complaining about on-the-job discrimination.
The lawsuit filed in federal court accuses Minneapolis Convention Center management of allowing white employees and supervisors to use racial slurs. Five of the plaintiffs are black and one is Native American.
The workers complained about discrimination and were singled out and subjected to retaliation after they complained about the alleged discrimination, the lawsuit said. They were later fired.
The suit says the city has "systematically and continuously" discriminated based on other factors including age, gender and disability.
Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said in a written statement that the convention center does not tolerate discrimination.
"We have full confidence in the management of the convention center, and the city will vigorously defend against the suit," she said.
The workers' attorney, Chris Walsh, said the lawsuit was served on the city last week.
Besides being the targets of racial slurs and sexist or ageist comments, the workers were targeted for complaining about the incidents, Walsh said.
For example, one of the plaintiffs, Ronald Benford, had good performance reviews until he complained about his manager using a racial slur.
"Then they step up the false discipline," which leads to termination, Walsh said.
Walsh said his clients want their jobs back, along with lost wages. That could total nearly $2 million among the fired workers.
Jay Tarbert, one of the former workers filing the suit, said it was clear he was being treated differently than some of the newer employees.
For example, Tarbert said he was disciplined after going out of his work area to get equipment to move chairs, while other employees were not disciplined for the same infraction.
"All of the sudden our employee folders have been stockpiled with some of the most ridiculous writeups," he said.