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Meet Diane Worrell – A Victim of Coca-Cola’s Discriminatory Employment Practices

Name: Diane Worrell
Year Born: 1954
Marital Status: Single
Years of Service: 2001 to 2011
Location of Facility: Maspeth, Queens, New York
Job Title: Production worker operating labeling machine

What Diane wants to say to Muhtar Kent:

How can you say there is no discrimination in your plants? That is a big lie!

Personal Statement:

I have never been so humiliated than when I am working for Coca-Cola. I began with Coca-Cola after working 22 years on another job where I never had any problems because I am a black female. I was never discriminated against like I have been on my job at Coca-Cola. I always performed my job well.

From beginning with Coke in 2001, I was constantly singled out and harassed because of my race and my weight. My son passed away at the age of 30 in 2011 and he was also a big person. He often asked me why I couldn’t get him a job at Coke. I never wanted him to know about the comments and ridicule I suffered because I was both black and heavy.

I was always put on cleanup and on the worst jobs, even though I had more seniority and experience than the Caucasian workers.

Lawsuit

Factual Allegations

Diane Worrell

1. Ms. Worrell, a black American, has been employed by Coca-Cola since August 2001 as a production associate at its Maspeth branch.

2. Through her employment at Coca-Cola, Ms. Worrell has been subject to discrimination in ridicule over her weight and appearance, assignment of undesirable duties, and unfair discipline. She has suffered from a hostile work environment full of racial bias and innuendoes on the production floor.

3. Right from the beginning of her employment, Ms. Worrell was faced with a Jamaican-American supervisor named Ron Evans who liked to ridicule her over her weight. As she was starting in September 2001, he told her, "you need to lose weight!" and claimed that her heavy weight was preventing her from working faster on the filler machine. Later in the month, because she was trying to rush to fix a problem, Ms. Worrell tripped and injured her hip. Later that day, Mr. Evans commented again on her weight by pointing out a co-worker and saying, "you need to be slim like her." To Ms. Worrell’s knowledge, Mr. Evans never insulted white employees this way, nor was he ever reprimanded by the white supervisors for his harassment.

4. About a month into her employment, Ms. Worrell was transferred to do cleanup work. Although this meant she could get away from Mr. Evans, it also put her on the dirtiest and most undesirable tasks in the production plant, to which white employees are generally not assigned. Ms. Worrell remained on clean up duty for approximately five years, while many white employees who were junior to her were assigned to the machines.

5. Even among the cleaning jobs, black workers like Ms. Worrell were always assigned to the most hazardous locations to clean, often without the necessary safety equipment. These included places like the boiler room, which was inundated with dangerous chemicals, and which Ms. Worrell often had to clean without a safety mask or chemical jumpsuit. To Ms. Worrell’s recollection, white employees never had to clean places like the boiler room, and were given the necessary safety equipment when they did have to work in hazardous conditions.

6. Throughout her employment, Ms. Worrell has observed offensive displays of racism in the plant from white co-workers and supervisors. One egregious example was the treatment of Yvette Butler, the only black female mechanic in the plant, which Ms. Worrell observed in detail. From when Ms. Butler started working in 2003, Ms. Worrell saw white manager Vito Caverelli referring to Ms. Butler as "idiot" and "moron" when she was trying to train on the machines. In the summer of 2005, Ms. Worrell observed white supervisor Ron Sampa tell Ms. Butler to use a cigarette lighter to heat and soften a hose in a room which contains many flammable chemicals. Fortunately, Ms. Butler did not take his advice and fixed the hose properly, but had she used a lighter as he advised she may have been placed in great danger.

7. In January 2006, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Ms. Worrell witnessed a white employee named Johnny Picca say to Ms. Butler, "what the hell are you doing here? Isn’t it Martin Luther King Day? Didn’t that man die for y’all?" And in 2007, Ms. Worrell witnessed white employee Angela Parnell refer to Ms. Butler as a "nigger". To Ms. Worrell’s knowledge, none of these white employees were ever reprimanded for their discriminatory treatment of Ms. Butler.

8. As Mr. Vilceus and Ms. Walker did, Ms. Worrell saw and was offended by white employee Marcello Ocello’s outburst, "the government is handing out Kentucky Fried Chicken!" after President Obama was elected. She has also observed white supervisor Ms. Babic catching Mr. Ocello picking his nose while working on a machine, a violation of company cleanliness policy. Ms. Babic never reprimanded him for this, and Mr. Ocello continues to pick his nose without washing his hands in Ms. Worrell’s presence.

9. In recent years, the discriminatory treatment from white supervisors has also affected Ms. Worrell’s work directly. In the spring of 2007, Ms. Worrell was operating the labeling machine when a disruption occurred in the line. Her white supervisors, Vito Cavarelli and Ms. Babic, blamed the disruption on her operation of the machine without properly investigating the actual cause of the disruption. Ms. Walker was immediately taken off the machine and put on cleaning duty again. Ms. Worrell later found out that the malfunction was indeed due to a mechanical failure, but she remained on cleaning duty for months afterward.

10. In the summer of 2008, Ms. Worrell was operating the labeling machine and was relieved by a white female worker named Pat while she went to lunch. Pat changed the labels while Ms. Worrell was at lunch, resulting in incorrect labels being put on the bottles. However, the white supervisors blamed Ms. Worrell for this mistake. In their investigation, the supervisors only interviewed Pat, who claimed she did not change the labels, and did not interview Ms. Worrell. The result was a disciplinary write up against Ms. Worrell, and no punishment for Pat. In this case, it was the word of a white employee against a black employee, and predictably the white managers believed the white employee and unfairly punished Ms. Worrell for the error.

11. For several years, Ms. Worrell and other black workers were forced to work on a broken filler machine, which required them to stand on a ladder to dump caps into the machine by hand. Ms. Worrell was aware that only black workers, and not white workers, were assigned to this machine. Only after a complaint to OSHA was made was the machine finally fixed.

12. Ms. Worrell continues to suffer from the discriminatory assignment of tasks – to date, she is still frequently taken off of machines to do cleanup work, while white workers are allowed to remain at a machine for years at a time.

13. Ms. Worrell has suffered emotionally from the assignment of the worst tasks to her and the racist work environment. She has suffered from anxiety, sleeplessness, and extreme self-consciousness, and currently sees a psychotherapist to cope with these problems caused by her work environment.