Ex-Tyson employee sues for discrimination in training program

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JEFF REINITZ

WATERLOO — A former Tyson Fresh Meats employee is suing the meatpacking company and Hawkeye Community College, alleging racial discrimination in a maintenance training program.

According to the complaint filed by Adolph Isom II, a Hawkeye instructor performed a Saturday Night Live Weekend Update skit from the season 46 finale where presenters Colin Jost and Michael Che made a series of racial jokes.

Another instructor taught students to remember a color-coded wiring diagram on an electrical circuit using the “Black Boys Rape Our Young Girls” mnemonic device, according to the costume.

Another instructor referred to the people as gorillas during a heat exchanger demonstration, according to the suit.

The incidents placed Isom “in a hostile educational environment where he felt unsafe and unwelcome because of his race,” the lawsuit says.

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Isom, who is black, began working for Tyson’s maintenance department in December 2020. A month later, he began training at Tyson ACES, a mechanics and maintenance program run by Tyson and Hawkeye.

The lawsuit alleges that the racial wiring diagram reference came during the first month of the program. Isom complained about the incident to the Hawkeye program manager and community outreach staff.

The instructor was referred for diversity and inclusion training, the suit says.

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In June 2021, Isom filed complaints regarding the gorillas’ comments and the showing of the Saturday Night Live video on a classroom overhead projector. He and another student walked out of class during the video.

One instructor was cleared to continue teaching after completing a microaggression course, while the other instructor was directed to diversity and inclusion training, records show.

Then, on July 15, 2021, Isom filed a lawsuit against a welding instructor who allegedly called people monkeys, saying “you can pull any monkey off the street and train them” to weld, the lawsuit says.

That same day, human resources officials at Tyson received a complaint that Isom had made homophobic slurs and comments. Isom denied making the statements and told Tyson officials he suspected the allegations against him were in response to him reporting his instructors, according to court records. An investigation found no evidence to support the allegations against Isom, records show.

On July 16, 2021, Hawkeye staff reportedly phoned Tyson officials to inform them of Isom’s complaints, a move his lawyers said was an attempt to get him in trouble with the company. Later, an email from Hawkeye officials to Tyson staff claimed that Isom was disrupting class and creating tension, records show.

Isom eventually quit his job at Tyson due to unfair treatment, according to the lawsuit.

Both lawsuits were filed in October in Black Hawk County District Court. Isom is represented by attorneys Charles Gribble, Christopher Stewart and Carly Scott of Des Moines.

Tyson’s lawsuit was transferred to the U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday at the request of Tyson’s attorneys.

Hawkeye Community College officials declined to comment on the allegations, but are releasing a prepared statement that reads, “Hawkeye Community College is committed to maintaining an educational and work environment in which students, faculty and staff can work together in an atmosphere free from discrimination, harassment, exploitation or intimidation. Any complaints or concerns of harassment or racial discrimination are taken very seriously. »

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