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Discrimination suit against Nucor gains steam

Seven current and former workers at a Nucor Steel plant in South Carolina have won an important victory in the lawsuit against their employer for racial discrimination. Their case has been granted class-action status by a federal appeals court. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: The seven workers at the Nucor Plant near Charleston allege that white supervisors have frequently referred to them and other black employees as "bologna lips," "porch monkey" and much worse. They say these racial epithets were broadcast over the plant-wide radio system, and in one instance, a black worker was threatened with a noose. Charleston attorney Armand Derfner represents the employees and says their case has two parts. Racial hostility is only the first part: "We want that to change and for this to be a place where normal people black and white would feel happy about working in," says Derfner. "The other half is the promotion idea. The claim is that blacks hardly ever get promoted and we want that to change, too." In 2007, a district court denied the workers' request to make their case a class-action lawsuit. But a federal appeals court has now overturned that. Derfner says at least 100 black employees who worked at the plant since 1999 will now be part of the suit. Court documents say they will seek back pay and damages. Nucor tried to block the case from getting class-action status. The company and its attorneys did not return calls seeking comment. But Greensboro attorney and litigation expert Mack Sperling says the appeals court ruling is no-doubt disappointing to Nucor: "Class actions can be terrifying to defendants," says Sperling. "Almost any company would rather be dealing with scattered, not well financed individual actions rather than one large class action where there were multiple employees represented by good and capable lawyers." Nucor is Fortune 500 company based in Charlotte.