Executives of a suburban company apologized again this week for a racially hostile work environment that drove an African American employee to quit.
Montrelle Reese said that while working at Westchester-based ThyssenKrupp, he witnessed a black-face performance during a company retreat as well as racial slurs. He filed suit against the company after a Nov. 3 finding from the Illinois human rights department and is seeking $250,000 in damages.
Last week the company announced its move to Chicago and intent to hire 100 people.
ThyssenKrupp's president and CEO released a statement apology Tuesday under pressure from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others. He said the company realizes "we need to take further measures to prevent the repetition of this type of behavior."
After an hour-long meeting Wednesday with company executives, Reese and Rev. Jesse Jackson, ThyssenKrupp USA president Christian Koenig promised "disciplinary action" against those responsible for the discrimination against Reese.
"Discriminatory or other improper conduct is unacceptable at ThyssenKrupp," Koenig said. "It has been and will continue to be."
Koenig said he hadn't heard of the "extremely disturbing reports" before last Saturday and said the incident "is embarrassing to me personally as an officer of this company."
Jackson said that since Reese left a year ago, the company's Chicago sales force has remained all white. Of all the mechanics working in this area, Jackson said only one is African American.
"Beyond the apology must be the change of the corporate culture," Jackson said following the meeting. "There must be some plan, some goals, targets, timetables for diversity sensitivity training, so the things that happened to him don't happen to future employees."
Koenig made no specific promises for the corporate culture changes or monetary settlements that Jackson is demanding, but he did promise a full investigation.