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Carpenter Alleges Workplace Racism After Finding Noose, Being Fired

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Twin Cities man believes he was targeted at his workplace because of his race.

Lee Jackson says Lunda Construction hired him to work on the St. Croix Crossing project that will replace the Stillwater Bridge. After just a few months, he says he discovered a noose at the job site.

The Grey Cloud Casting Yard on the St. Croix River project employs roughly 80 people. Lunda Construction hired Jackson, a carpenter, last October.

"I was excited. It was a chance for me to be financially stable," Jackson said.

The journeyman with 20-plus years of experience was happy to have the indoor work, something Jackson says is hard to come by.

Lee Jackson - Alleges Workplace Racism
(credit: CBS)

"It was a long project, lots of work, steady work, inside work, you know, comfortable work all winter," Jackson said.

He says he showed up on time ready to work, but often was asked to sweep instead of use his skills. Even so, he says he couldn't have prepared for what unfolded in late January when he was asked to clean out a tool box.

"Second shelf, I pull the box out, I turn and set it down. I reach back and see a rope. I pull it out and I notice it was a noose at the end of it, and I looked around, there's nobody around, you know, because I'm looking for someone snickering in the corner," Jackson said.

He took a picture on his phone. Before he did, Jackson said he cut the end of the rope.

"Instantly enraged, then I got scared, then I got mad," Jackson said. "I had an attitude, I'm going to be honest with you, I had an attitude since that day, from that day, because I don't know who put it there, I don't know why they thought they should."

He believes the rope was left for him to find, to threaten or intimidate him.

In a letter obtained by WCCO, Lunda's Equal Employment Officer acknowledges receiving the picture of the rope, "due to concerns that the rope was suggestive of a noose," and "may have a racially motivated meaning."

The company did not determine who placed it in the toolbox or if it was racially motivated.

The letter states the company would continue the investigation and would hold a mandatory meeting to review the policy against harassment and discrimination.

"The meeting happened but the topic never came up," Jackson said.

Lunda also offered to relocate Jackson to another project, but he chose to stay at Grey Cloud, telling WCCO he wanted to continue to work inside.

Forty-four days after reporting the noose, Lunda Construction terminated Jackson.

He admits he was given a verbal warning and was written up twice during that time frame for arguments with co-workers.

"I believe I was terminated from the job, because … I brought that situation to light. Second of all, because I had an attitude about it," he said. "A lot of people told me that I should have just kept my mouth shut, keep my head down and just work."

WCCO reached out to the CEO and the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer of Lunda Construction repeatedly for a comment. So far, no one has responded.

Jackson says he originally wanted to bring the situation to light to start a conversation about race and rights, and to hopefully prevent his sons from having to work under similar conditions.

Now he is considering filing a formal complaint.

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