Talk about a toxic work environment. In a lawsuit filed under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, three Black former employees Idus Hartsfield, Richard Turnbow, and Roderick Hunter are suing the PulteGroup “for allegedly violating their civil rights, citing several incidents that include a White executive bringing a noose to a meeting.”
According to the lawsuit, customer care manager Hartsfield saw a noose lying on the table during a November 17, 2019 staff meeting. Hartsfield contends that a white executive “openly waved” the noose around, while warning the employees, which included Black staff members, “not to hang themselves.”
Hartsfield said, “It was a frigid reminder, like getting dumped in a bucket of ice, like (seeing that) things are not progressing like you may have thought.”
Lead Counsel for the plaintiffs, Mark Zausmer said, “We have photographic evidence that’s never been made public. [President and CEO] Ryan Marshall’s managers actually used a noose at a meeting with Black employees in an effort to create an unworkable environment. When they complained, they were written up and subsequently fired,” adding “I’ve never seen anything so clear and egregious.”
“Ryan Marshall, Todd Sheldon, Brandon Jones, Michelle Hairston, and Patrick Witzigman all have some serious answering to do. I expect other whistleblowers and employees who have been discriminated against to step forward,” Zausmer continued, referring to current and former company executives.
Started in 1950, PulteGroup was based in Michigan. In 2014, the Fortune 500 company moved its headquarters to Georgia and is “considered the third-largest homebuilding company in America.”
In an ironic chain of events, PulteGroup and CEO Ryan Marshall just created a “Diversity Board,” but, a read of the 22-page complaint certainly paints a different picture of what it’s really like to work at PulteGroup.
In the suit, the Diversity Board is called a “sham” and states that “managers engaged in ‘unlawful retaliation in the form of termination’ when Black employees reported misconduct on the part of Patrick Witzigman who is alleged to have acted as a lieutenant in the scheme and had racist interactions with all three Black plaintiffs.”
The suit also claims that “Witzigman’s conduct was given a pass or endorsement because he was a loyalist to COO, Brandon Jones, who himself was recently terminated after the PulteGroup Board found wrongdoing and actions that violated their Code of Ethical Business Conduct.”
On top of these allegations, the plaintiffs are also asserting a larger workplace conspiracy, wherein “the CEO had his executives and managers filter out Black employees who complained about racist practices, as well as fast-track friends of executives to promotions.” The suit also specifically calls out Senior Executive Brandon Jones, “whom the lawsuit claims is a personal friend of CEO Ryan Marshall.”
In response, PulteGroup has told CNN these claims are “reprehensible,” and doubled down on their commitment to diversity and inclusion, stating “The allegations are reprehensible and will not be tolerated. PulteGroup strives to maintain, promote and advance a work culture where all people are valued, respected and heard. Diversity is embraced and integrated throughout our organization and the communities in which we do business. This is critical to our mission and vision.”