A former Bath Iron Works welder has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit alleging co-workers and supervisors harassed him for being Black, frequently hurling racial epithets at him.

Aaron Martin, of Lincoln County, worked at the shipyard from August 2018 to October 2021, when his employment was “terminated … for reasons not at issue in this action,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed last week in federal court in the District of Maine.

Martin claimed he was one of the shipyard’s “very few” Black employees and that co-workers and supervisors used racist slurs against him on multiple occasions and would refer to him as a monkey and a chimp.

“BIW employees frequently made noises imitating monkeys and clicking sounds when Martin or other Black employees were present,” wrote Martin’s lawyers, Nicholas J. Bernate and Stacey D. Neumann, of Portland-based Murray Plumb & Murray. “Martin has suffered humiliation, degradation, intimidation, emotional distress and other consequential damages.”

Martin, whose lawyers claim the shipyard violated the Civil Rights Act, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

BIW spokesperson David Hench said the shipyard does not comment on pending litigation.


Martin claimed that on Sept. 10, 2018, his supervisor called him a racist slur and referred to another worker by a racist term for a Hispanic person. He said his co-workers posted messages with racist language like “white power” and “kill darkie” on and around his work locker. His said an employee posted a message reading “Trump 2020 – White Power” in a bathroom and that the shipyard didn’t remove it for several weeks. He said in October 2021, a co-worker called him a racist slur in front of dozens of other workers, including supervisors.

“BIW employees made no effort to hide their harassment of Martin and other Black individuals,” Martin’s lawyers wrote. “BIW employees engaged in this discriminatory conduct regularly and openly.

“BIW knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt remedial action.”

Martin’s lawyers claimed a supervisor, in written communication to other supervisors, once used a racist slur against Black people and used the same slur to describe work he considered inferior.

“The severe and pervasive racial discrimination and harassment created, perpetuated and unchecked by BIW, and endured by Martin, is symptomatic of BIW’s institutional culture of animus against employees of color,” Martin’s lawyers wrote.

In 2015, a former BIW worker who is Muslim settled a lawsuit in which he claimed he was harassed at the shipyard for his religion and Palestinian descent. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Bernate declined to say how much in damages his client is seeking.

“The allegations in the complaint speak for themselves,” Bernate said in a statement. “During the years that Aaron worked at Bath Iron Works, he was regularly subject to racial slurs and severe discrimination based on the color of his skin. We look forward to Bath Iron Works being held to account for its conduct.”

The shipyard, owned by General Dynamics, is Maine’s fourth-largest private employer, with about 6,500 workers. BIW in recent weeks signed a new contract with its largest union, avoiding a repeat of a 2020 strike, and was awarded a contract for three more destroyers, the only vessel it builds.

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