ThyssenKrupp vs. Montrelle Reese; Wait isn’t it 2012?

Improper Racial Comments

Few incidents are as striking as the one that surfaced in the media last week regarding  industrial giant ThyssenKrupp.  ThyssenKrupp manufactures, services, and sells almost everything industrial in all four corners of the globe.  ThyssenKrupp Elevator is the division involved in this major issue.

If you have not seen the a video of the incident which happened in 2010, you might want to take a look here:

German Firm ThyssenKrupp Apologizes For Racial Discrimination:

Defining happenings include:

(A) supervisor applied brown makeup to his face to make his skin tone darker during a skit at a sales conference in Indianapolis, according to the report, which concluded that there was “substantial evidence” that Reese, who worked in the Westchester, IL office, was harassed because of his race.”

The article continues… “Though the supervisor later claimed that he was impersonating a rapper of Asian descent from the musical group Linkin Park, the skin-darkening showed the company “fosters an environment of accepted racial intolerance,” the report states. -Excerpt from Chicago Tribune article

“I never felt more alone in my life. I was in a depressed state. I would sit in my car for 20 to 30 minutes prior to entering the building, because I couldn’t handle being there. These were the people directly responsible for my success in the company. I had to tolerate it. But after that blackface incident, I couldn’t take it anymore. I resigned in one of the toughest job markets in my lifetime, but I didn’t care. It was a regional conference. Management on every level was there. And that was funny to them. It wasn’t behind closed doors. It was out in the open. It was a collective atmosphere created by everyone. Without question, it was tolerated. There was no secret what was going on, because everybody participated.Montrelle Reese, Former ThyssenKrupp Elevator Sales Representative

“We have had to realize that mistakes were made, for example, the use of epithets to describe a tool to service elevators or disparaging remarks about [black] neighborhoods. … We realize that we need to take further measures to prevent the repetition of this type of behavior…. We will dedicate whatever time and resources are necessary to further education our workforce on the lawful and appropriate treatment of all employees, including the engagement of experts to assist in this education.” ThyssenKrupp CEO Rich Hussey

It is obvious that there are infractions here. I question if we would have even heard about the 2010 incident had ThyssenKrupp not elected to bring a location to the city of Chicago. Although the incident was denied by ThyssenKrupp, the city of Chicago, once advised of the story, brought the situation to the mainstream spotlight by publicly denying any knowledge that TK had such an egregious act happen just west of the city prior to the announcement

Hats Off to Montrelle

I have viewed the interviews of Montrelle Reese, as well as read his written depictions and quotations.  His appearance is solid, and it is difficult not to believe his story.

My hat is off to him because he hung in there and did everything that he could do to maintain employment. He reported it to is organization just as he should have done.  There is nothing that he could do about the fact that the office he worked in and the management that surrounded him were so wrong and insensitive.  Mr. Reese also did what he had to do in leaving.   It takes courage to leave as well.

If there is a God, Mr. Reese’s recompense will be a job in an organization that will treasure his talents, and appreciate the difference that diversity makes.  Sure, he will get paid as the things that happened seem egregious, but more importantly we can all learn from what happened.

The Westchester, Illinois office of ThyssenKrupp has proven that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing (Burke)!” Hopefully, those who participated will be dealt with severely as is indicated by CEO Rich Hussey (ThyssenKrupp).  I would note even more that those who stood by and watched without comment can’t escape some culpability.

This was Racial Harassment and Racial Bullying

Let’s not be confused, this was not a crude gesture or comment, it was racial harassment and racial bullying pure and simple. It may never happen to you, and I certainly hope it doesn’t.  They were picking on him because he was different than majority and having no voice with human resources, or any other facet of the organization.

I will repeat from other editions of Black Sales Journal that if you are a Black sales professional you will work with, and for, some good people.  There are those who are not  good, and you will be exposed to them as well.  In cases where there is insensitivity remember the two items below and be familiar with the tactics.  When it is grossly egregious as in the Reese case, you will need some different tactics.

For safekeeping we will include how you might react to comments from customers as well:

If You Get Harassed or Bullied

This one is difficult as it can come in many different forms. Objectively, You should always follow a few different actions when you feel this type of activity taking place:

  • Always document the actions, including exact times, dates, and places of any incidents.
  • Note all participants to a conversation and incident and all that were present when it happened.
  • Inform HR when there is an incident, and don’t believe that this is a ‘chumps’ way out.  This is what you should do, and who you should be able to go to for counsel.
  • If it is co-workers, management should be informed in writing, and HR should be included.
  • If it is your direct manager, it is particularly important that any of your co-workers who witness this are noted.  They are a very important piece of this.
  • Save any memos, notes, videos, audios, or whatever might be available

I also think it is important to tell the manager or co-worker verbally that you did not appreciate the comment.  The reactions might be interesting.  Whether you get an apology or an excuse, you need to look them in the face and advise of your sentiments.  Don’t give them the opportunity to say in the future that they did not know that they offended you….don’t give them the chance!

I will do a short post on remedies in and out of the legal system.  I am not suggesting anything in particular, as each situation is different.  Knowing the remedies is important, as you will want to match the incident with the remedy.

Always know your options.

Your comments are welcome.


  1. john says:

    this company is known for its hostile activities towards foreigners even in germany.they supported adolf hitler in the secound world war.thyssenkrupp is a very racist company

  2. leo says:

    i believe Mr Reese, and its a shame that the companies lawyers denied any case of racism.its not the first time a Black guy complains of been discriminated in the Firm. They are a big disgrace