OAKLAND -- Graffiti threats were scribbled across three BART workers' lockers.

When African-American workers came to work late June, they found the racist death threats, the latest incident in an ongoing pattern of racial discrimination and harassment after a lawsuit was filed late last year.

A group of African-American track maintenance workers say that BART has forced them to return to work without concluding its investigation.

Jody LeWitter, the attorney representing the seven workers, said that BART has been slow to respond.

"It's a month later. We don't really know what's going on," she said. "These guys are back at work looking back over their shoulders. To me that's too long."

A BART train speeds along Highway 24, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 in Orinda, Calif.  (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)
A BART train speeds along Highway 24, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 in Orinda, Calif. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

In the employees' written protest to return to work, they described the continuing pattern over the course of years of racist harassment and discrimination in promotions and working conditions, including graffiti that was ordered to be wiped off without investigation.

Rudolph Johnson, 26, is one of the workers who found the threat on his locker.

"I was intimidated. I was distraught. It felt like BART didn't have my back," he said. "I felt threatened for my life."

Johnson said that for the past two years, he has endured racial, physical and sexual harassment. He said he has been punched and thrown in a garbage can. After immediately reporting the incidents to his supervisors, Johnson said "nothing" was done.


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The lawsuit, filed in December, states: "To date, BART has failed to take effective corrective action to address the racially, discriminatory, harassing, and/or retaliatory conduct experienced by the plaintiffs."

BART dismissed the prior incidents as "horseplay" but is addressing the most recent, LeWitter said.

"For the first few incidents nobody has really tried," she said. "I'm not saying they're not trying now, but they tolerated it for too long, which just emboldens people who are racist to engage in this kind of conduct."

In a statement Thursday, General Manager Grace Crunican said BART is taking the latest racist graffiti seriously.

The night of the incident more than a month ago, BART began an internal investigation and are treating the incident as a hate crime, Crunican said.

The transit agency wrote that it has hired two independent investigators -- one to look into the locker incident and another to assess the overall morale and relationships among workers in the tracks department.

LeWitter said she questions the qualifications of the two investigators.

"(The workers) are relying on BART to step up to the plate and take some action," she said.