A black factory worker in Alabama filed a discrimination lawsuit when he was fired after complaining that someone had left a Ku Klux Klan hood in his locker. What law firm represented the company -- Chemical Lime Co., of Calera -- essentially defending the use of KKK materials to harass a black man on the job? That would be Balch Bingham, of Birmingham, with its historic ties to segregation and the George Wallace administration -- including a 1960s highway-funds scandal that involved a firm that employed the imperial wizard of the KKK.
In the Chemical Lime case, 25-year employee Albert Thomas received a substantial jury award, even though he prevailed on only one of his eight legal claims. From a 2011 report on the case at al.com:
A jury in Birmingham federal court has awarded more than $300,000 to a black Birmingham-area man who filed a discrimination suit after being fired amid his complaint about the dismissal to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Albert Thomas won the $314,000 verdict on Wednesday after a trial in U.S. District Court, according to Jon Goldfarb, his lawyer with the Birmingham firm Wiggins Childs Quinn and Pantazis.
Thomas sued Chemical Lime Co. about a year ago, which was about a year after he was fired after 25 years on the job. Thomas worked at the company's plant in Calera.
Thomas prevailed on one of eight claims cited in his lawsuit, that he was retaliated against after filing a complaint with the EEOC.
"He is a worthy client and it was a good verdict," Goldfarb said.
Al.com provides background on the case:
A lawyer for Chemical Lime said the company is considering an appeal and that the jury made no finding of race or age discrimination, as alleged in the suit. That suit included racially charged allegations. It said someone had cut white sheets into the form of Ku Klux Klan garb, and left them in plain sight for Thomas. When he complained, the suit said, his supervisor taunted him with the paraphernalia.
Shortly after, the suit said Thomas was demoted from a control room operator's job that paid $20 an hour to a labor position that paid $15. Soon after, Thomas filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"You won't be working here much longer, you will be with your brothers on the street," the suit quotes a Chemical Lime production supervisor as saying to Thomas, a comment preceded by a threat to "fire his black" posterior.
Chemical Lime's lawyer said those events never happened, and that the company is considering an appeal of the verdict.
"We deny those allegations happened and believe the jury verdict supports that view," said Jeffrey Starling, a lawyer for Chemical Lime with Birmingham's Balch Bingham law firm.
What kind of work is conducted at Chemical Lime?
Chemical Lime employs about 150 people in Calera, according to the 2010 Alabama Manufacturers Register. It makes quicklime, which is made by heating limestone and used to treat sewage waste.
Chemical Lime is a unit of a company known as Lhoist North America, according to the Lhoist North American website.
Lhoist North America in turn is a unit or affiliate of Lhoist Group, which has lime, dolomite and other mineral operations worldwide, with a corporate headquarters in Belgium. It was started in Belgium in 1889, according to its web site.