NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An African-American offshore oil worker has filed a federal lawsuit saying he was intimidated on the job by a supervisor who drew a picture of him dangling from a high rig structure while surrounded by co-workers in Ku Klux Klan hats.
The lawsuit claims the worker was denied a promotion he was in line for after complaining. And it says he was removed from the rig off Louisiana’s coast after the supervisor bumped his shoulder during a confrontation.
The suit was filed in New Orleans this month by attorneys for Maurice Wilson of Morton, Mississippi. It seeks unspecified damages from Wilson’s employer, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling, for failing to provide a safe workplace free from racial discrimination.
Transocean declined comment Wednesday and has not yet filed a response in court.
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The suit says Wilson had been assigned a job on the rig last May that involved him being hoisted 144 feet into the air in a safety harness to lubricate equipment. It says he was reviewing paperwork for the job when he saw a rescue diagram drawn by the supervisor. It showed Wilson hanging from the rig yelling “help” while surrounded by crew members “wearing pointed Ku Klux Klan hats.”
He complained to the supervisor but still did the job, “despite fear for his physical safety,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says Wilson was told later that he was being considered for a promotion, only to learn afterward that the supervisor who had drawn the diagram used his influence to see that another worker with less experience got the promotion instead.
It says Wilson confronted the supervisor, who is identified in the lawsuit only as the rig’s driller, saying he felt discriminated against and that he was still upset about the drawing, according to the suit.
“The discussion between the two men escalated,” the suit says. “The driller initially blocked Plaintiff when Plaintiff tried to walk away from the conversation and then intentionally physically bumped Plaintiff’s shoulder as Plaintiff left the conversation.”
The suit says Wilson was sent home early from his rig assignment and has not been called back to work since last July. It accuses Transocean of negligence for failure to provide a safe workplace free of “overt racial discrimination.”
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Lance Africk.