Dean Foods Co., the No. 2 U.S. dairy producer, is accused in a lawsuit of allowing hangman's nooses, racist graffiti and other racial harassment to occur at its San Leandro, Calif., milk plant. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Alameda County Superior Court, accuses Dean Foods and at least four supervisors of racial discrimination, failure to prevent such discrimination, retaliation and unlawful termination.
The suit was filed on behalf of seven current and former workers at the plant. Six are black and one is Mexican American. They said they were subjected to racist symbols and comments during a 10-year period, passed over for promotions and in some cases fired from their jobs.
Dean Foods bought the facility three years ago, and "many of the examples cited related to a time we didn't own the plant," said Dale Kleber, general counsel for Dean Foods. "We conducted an internal investigation on some of these allegations, and we concluded the merits of this case are questionable."
Shares of Franklin Park, Ill.-based Dean Foods fell 34 cents to $41.15 on the NYSE.