South Roxana refinery worker claims he was victim of racial harassment

By Andrea Dearden | Jan 3, 2013

An employee of a South Roxana oil refinery says for more than a decade he was the victim of racial harassment and a hostile work environment.

Nathan J. Williams filed a lawsuit Dec. 19 in Madison County Circuit Court against ConocoPhillips Company, doing business as Phillips 66. Labor union Local 399 and Pablo Avilez are also named as defendants.

Williams began working for the company in April 2001 as an operator in the dispatching department of the South Roxana facility, according to the complaint. Williams, who is black, says he has endured continued racial animosity during his employment including co-workers using the "N- word" during conversations.  

Williams says he made several complaints to company officials against several co-workers beginning in October 2001 and continuing through December 2010. The company allegedly found enough evidence to substantiate Williams' claims in seven of the eight cases. Those claims, according to Williams' lawsuit, range from racial harassment to damage to his car to physical threats.

Williams contends disciplinary action was taken against several employees, yet the harassment allegedly continued. In March 2011 Williams says an investigation conducted by a human resources investigator regarding an October 2010 incident concluded in the recommended terminations of three employees including Williams' direct supervisor, Avilez.

When those disciplinary actions were allegedly not taken Williams says he filed a complaint of race discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May 2011. He claims he filed the same complaint against Local 399 in August 2011 for allegedly conspiring with his employer in the creation of a hostile work environment.

Williams also says Avilez lied to and misled those responsible for investigating his claims of harassment. He says the supervisor then singled him out for discipline in retaliation for filing the complaints.

Williams seeks a judgment of at least $1.33 million for punitive damages, lost wages and costs of the lawsuit.

He is represented by attorney Vincent A. Banks III of St. Louis. They ask for a jury trial.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 12-L-2046

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