FORT VALLEY, Ga. (WGXA) -- Bus manufacturing company, Blue Bird, headquartered in Fort Valley, is in the spotlight again after two former black female employees have alleged they were fired after they reported sexual harassment and discrimination amongst labor workers within the Blue Bird company. Their attorney said they were discriminated against as well for blowing the horn on the wrongdoings within the workplace.
They're now asking for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate claims of racial and gender discrimination.
Their attorney is Tamara Holder, a nationally recognized women's rights and civil rights attorney.
Blue Bird has received recent media coverage after workers voted for a union after going on strike seeking higher pay, more regular schedules, and better vacation and sick time. Now, the company could have a separate legal battle to navigate.
"They observed pay disparity between black workers and non-black workers," said Holder via a Thursday Zoom call. They observed pregnancy discrimination where the company refused to provide accommodations to at least two pregnant women."
She said they also observed drug testing discrimination; drug tested more often than others.
"When they brought them up, they were ignored."
Not only were they ignored, they were fired. Holder says her clients have claimed it's because they're black.
"How did the idea of race come into this, instead of two women coming together and saying 'hey, we're observing this,' asked Finney.
"Blue Bird ignored them, and therefore retaliated against them and fired them...They believe that they were treated differently than white female workers who were in a similar position of HR," responded Holder.
Georgia is an at-will employment state, meaning an employer can terminate employment without being required to give any justification for the decision. However, Holder says employers cannot discrimintarily fire employees.
"You cannot get away with discrimination by saying, 'Oh, we're an at-will state,' which is a common defense for people who don't understand discrimination and the Sole Rights Act of 1964," said Holder. They don't understand that you still cannot discriminate."
Holder says challenging decisions such as this could take years.
"So what we're (currently) doing is we're trying to find out how the company handled discrimination if there are any other complaints," said Holder. "So, we will be filing more complaints if more people come forward, and we're in the information-gathering stage at this point".
Holder said the EEOC is aware of the claims. As for what is next, Holder said there would be an investigation, after which she and her clients could possibly settle or potentially file a lawsuit in federal court.
Holder said others who believe they have experienced discrimination or sexual harassment may file their own claims if the event(s) occurred within 300 days of the filed claim.
WGXA reached out to Blue Bird for comment but has not received a response at the time this article was published.