HOUSTON - Five African American men have filed suit against Becon Construction Co. and Bechtel Group Inc. claiming they "have faced racial discrimination, retaliation and a hostile work environment for several years."

Plaintiffs Eric Thomas, John Pitre Jr., Henry Celestine, Christopher Lyles and Zavier Green accuses the defendants of mistreating them for being black, according to the federal suit they filed Oct. 12 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas.

The men allege they were the targets of racial slurs as well as derogatory artwork depicting nooses and lynching. They insist there is a "systemic atmosphere of bigotry that surrounds them at work."

The plaintiffs allege their superiors encourage Caucasian and Hispanic workers to harass and degrade them on a daily basis, according to the suit.

"Racial animus of this kind exists throughout the workplace and has been condoned and encouraged by Becon management," the original petition alleges.

It additionally points out "a disparity in pay" in which the

The plaintiffs also claim there is a "disparity in pay" at the facility, in which they and others of similar racial background were paid less and not given the equal amount in raises.

The plaintiffs further show the level of discipline for them and other black employees is "much higher" than for their non-black counterparts.

Efforts to address the allegations with the companies' superiors were unsuccessful as the workers were retaliated against, the suit states.

Thomas, Pitre, Lyles and Green were terminated while Celestine had his request to be laid off approved.

They consequently seek unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

Attorney Jay D. Ellwanger with DiNovo Price Ellwanger & Hardy LLP in Austin is representing the plaintiffs.

Case No. 4:12-cv-3055

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