Forsyth County Couple Sues Tyson Farms Over Alleged Discrimination

Forsyth County Couple Sues Tyson Farms Over Alleged Discrimination

4:30pm Jul 20, 2021
The Tyson poultry processing complex in Wilkes County, North Carolina. KERI BROWN/WFDD

Two former employees at the Tyson processing plant in Wilkesboro recently filed a civil rights discrimination lawsuit against the company.

The complaint alleges that Adrian and Michelle Switzer were repeatedly called racial slurs by a supervisor while on the job. The married couple from Forsyth County is Black and Muslim. The supervisor is a white female.

The Switzers say they were also subjected to religious discrimination and a hostile environment while working at the Wilkesboro plant.

The plaintiffs say they made several complaints to human resources, managers, and the company’s employee hotline.

According to the lawsuit, Tyson Farms maintained an atmosphere at its Wilkes facility that emphasized company loyalty, confidentiality to management and nondiscussion of employment matters with others. The complaint says that atmosphere generated a strong fear among employees regarding their job security.

Michelle Switzer says she was fired in April 2019. Her husband Adrian quit shortly after that. Both filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The agency found reasonable cause to believe that violations of Title VII were committed by Tyson Farms against both plaintiffs, but the suit says the EEOC failed to obtain relief from the company through conciliation efforts. The EEOC issued a right to sue letter in January.

The plaintiffs are asking for at least $25,000 in compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees.

Tyson Foods says it doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation, but issued the following statement to WFDD:

"At Tyson Foods, we value the enormous diversity of our team members and we continue to work hard to create an inclusive environment where everyone is, and feels, safe and respected. We also have a policy against workplace discrimination and harassment and will not tolerate any action that violates them."

The lawsuit was originally filed this spring in Forsyth County Superior Court. It has since been moved to the Middle District of North Carolina.

The company's poultry plant in Wilkesboro employs more than 2,000 people.

Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

Support your
public radio station