It was a source who first called me about this story, which focuses on an airline refueling company called Allied Aviation, one of the largest airline refuelers in the country. Chances are, when you look out the window of your airplane, Allied workers are refueling your aircraft.
When I first heard the details, I found them hard to believe. Several African-American and Latino workers at Allied's facility in Dallas allege they were subjected to racism by supervisors and colleagues and that upper management didn't do enough to stop it.
Eric Mitchell, a former employee, described how white workers and managers used a demeaning racial slur to describe blacks. He says his immediate supervisors did little to stop it. One day he went to work and saw his name, as well as the names of several other black employees, on something called the "n----- hit list." The list was written on a bathroom wall.
Mitchell was so concerned he reported it to police. But he said it was only after he and others complained to Allied's corporate headquarters that the company scheduled a sensitivity class.
I also spoke to Francisco Ochoa, who had put up with workers telling him to go back to "Mexico." The defining moment for him was when he walked into his manager's office and found a derogatory cartoon with him in it. He said it was titled: "Mexican gas chamber." Ochoa, who was battling cancer, tearfully explained how deeply it had hurt him.
When I caught up with Ochoa's former manager, the one who had the cartoon on his desk, he told me that while the cartoon probably should not have been on his desk, whoever drew it was "a good artist." He said Ochoa never complained to him about the cartoon.
Allied would not speak to us on camera about the allegations, but they did release a statement: "We deny that these individuals are the victims of any type of discrimination or retaliation....We have acted in good faith towards these individuals."
But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission conducted an investigation, and as a result, filed a federal suit against Allied Aviation. The EEOC says Allied did too little, too late to stop the racism at its facility. And, according to James Vagnini, a plaintiffs attorney, there are similar allegations at Allied facilities operating at JFK airport, Newark International and San Antonio.
I know full well that racism still exists in many parts of our society, despite the good intentions of most people, but the allegations in this case nevertheless are disturbing.