Ex-worker sues Bechtel over firing

A former Hanford worker has filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was subjected to a racially and sexually hostile work environment.

Linda Mims-Johnson says Bechtel National, the Hanford vitrification plant contractor, ignored her complaints for a year and then retaliated by firing her.

The lawsuit was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Spokane, said her attorneys Michael D. Franklin and Laura J. Black with the law firm Lukins & Annis in Spokane.

Bechtel officials could not be reached Wednesday evening about the allegations.

Mims-Johnson, who is black, claims racist and sexual graffiti, drawings and threats were pervasive and severe in the restrooms and portable toilets that she was responsible for cleaning.

In a written statement, her attorneys said she was "subjected daily to graffiti with references to the Ku Klux Klan, disparaging remarks about President Obama's race, frequent use of the word 'nigger,' a drawing of an African-American hanging in a noose, a drawing of an African-American female being sodomized by a white male with a reference to First Lady Michelle Obama, racially-motivated and personal threats, and a host of graphic sexual drawings -- some of which were written in feces."

And because Mims-Johnson was the only black woman cleaning the restrooms she "believes that the graffiti was directed specifically toward her," said her attorneys.

Once, the attorneys said, she found a drawing of a black man hanging from a noose with a statement that "a good nigger is a dead nigger," and threatening: "you are next Linda."

The suit alleges that when she complained, her supervisor downplayed her concerns and told her to cover the graffiti with black spray paint.

She alleges that after the bathroom stalls were almost totally painted black to cover the graffiti, employees began using white markers to continue to harass her, said her attorneys.

Mims-Johnson claims her repeated complaints were not investigated for almost a year while she continued to be assigned to clean the restrooms and remove graffiti.

After filing a detailed complaint on March 1, Mims-Johnson was transferred to another department and then fired a few weeks later, said the suit.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for lost wages, emotional distress and punitive damages.