A PSEG Long Island lineman has filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the company and its predecessor National Grid of a pattern of racial and other forms of discrimination during nearly two decades at the company. 

The 42-page complaint includes photographs of nooses found in a company work yard and derogatory Photoshopped images of the worker, Andre Hinds, who is Black and a 21-year employee. The images were circulated by co-workers and left on his work locker, according to the suit, which alleges Hinds was subjected to decades of racial and medical discrimination by the companies, which have operated the electrical grid under contract for LIPA, starting the year after he was hired in 2004.

The suit names PSEG and affiliated companies National Grid Electric Services LLC and Long Island Servco, the third-party holding company that employs the contractors. LIPA, which owns the grid and hires the contractors, isn’t named as a defendant.

The suit accuses PSEG and seven people who managed Hinds of an “ongoing pattern and practice of discrimination against Black employees” and those who have been absent from work “due to valid protected medical leave ….”

National Grid and PSEG did not immediately respond to requests for comment. LIPA declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Hinds' lawyer, Tracey Brown, an attorney at the Cochran Firm in its New York City office, was not immediately available for comment. 

The suit cites alleged comments made by seven men who supervised Hinds, including the statement that the company was “only trying to bring Blacks in for affirmative action” and similar statements, starting in 2005. Hinds’ last promotion was in 2010, when the electrical lineman was advanced to troubleshooter, the only Black employee at that level at the time.

Hinds, whom the suit says lives in Nassau County and works in the PSEG Hewlett location, suffered a shoulder injury in 2010 that required surgery and medical leave beginning the following August. His injuries were “minimized and ridiculed,” the suit says, while white workers with similar injuries weren’t subjected to the same treatment. The company “withheld job opportunities” based on his race, color, disability and the fact that he took a medical leave, the suit says.

The suit says the retaliation continued from 2014 through 2018, during the period in which PSEG took over from National Grid, including a 2016 note left in his locker showing a Photoshopped image of Hinds beside a man bandaged in a hospital bed under the headline “Sick, hurt call Hinds hehehe.” The note, according to the suit, “had the intended effect of denigrating [Hinds’] injuries and portraying [him] as lazy, a racist trope often used against Black men.” The suit also includes a picture of Hinds affixed to a milk carton that lists him as “Missing. Last seen 2/2/2016,” when he was out on medical leave.

The suit says Hinds complained about the images left in his locker, but “PSEG took no immediate or appropriate corrective action and, consequently, the toxic environment has been allowed to continue festering.”

The suit makes references to a prior discrimination claim filed against the company by a former project manager, who similarly said he was passed over for promotions and ultimately fired after he reported an improper billing scheme by a contractor. That lawsuit has since been dismissed. 

Hinds' suit notes that throughout the time he has worked for PSEG, “no Black or African American male PSEG employees have held an upper management position, let alone an executive position.”

Andrea Elder-Howell, a vice president for legal for the company, is a Black woman.

The suit says PSEG “pretextually terminated” Hinds' position in July 2019, then modified that termination to a suspension, and even suggested he would be promoted to a leadership post. But the post was subsequently given to a less qualified, less experienced non-Black, non-African American co-worker, according to the suit.

Hinds, who remains a PSEG lineman, declined to comment. The suit says he's seeking unspecified monetary damages, an injunction preventing PSEG from continuing the "unlawful conduct" and court costs. 

The suit also says Hinds was threatened with disciplinary action when he wore an “I Can’t Breathe” face mask to work during the COVID-19 pandemic in the summer of 2020, yet white co-workers who wore “Blue Lives Matter” and “Make America Great Again” masks faced no such possible discipline.

The suit mentions the discovery of a noose hanging inside a PSEG storage container by another Black PSEG worker and another noose discovered in November outside a PSEG truck platform. Hinds complained about both incidents, but the suit charges “PSEG’s onslaught of discriminatory conduct continues unabated …"

When Newsday reported on the noose incidents, a company spokeswoman at the time said, "Behaviors, acts and symbols of hate like these have no place at PSEG Long Island or the worksites we occupy and will not be tolerated."

She added, "The safety of our employees is paramount and as an immediate step, the security presence on site has been enhanced. In addition, further security cameras and lighting are being installed and further measures are being reviewed."

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