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Eleven current or former employees sued Public Service Electric & Gas Co. Tuesday, claiming racial and sexual discrimination and harassment. The suit alleged a doll was hung from a noose at the locker of a black worker, and female workers said they were pressured for sex or otherwise humiliated. Most of the workers, from offices and plants across New Jersey, also claimed they were paid less than their white, male counterparts. The suit, filed in Superior Court in Newark, seeks unspecified monetary damages and an end to what attorney Lenard Leeds described as “a plantation environment where white managers control women and minorities.” “To be treated this way is a crime,” said Ulysses Rice Jr. of Newark, who says he was fired after 36 years with the company, where he served as director, the next step below vice president. In a statement, the company denied any wrongdoing, and said the lawsuit will disrupt what it termed ongoing efforts to settle employee grievances with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “We are committed to a just treatment of all employees, and we do not and will not tolerate unlawful discrimination of any kind,” the company said. While not a party to the suit, Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Project is supporting it, and tried in vain to have the company’s top management meet with the employees. “Rev. Jackson made an individual and personal plea to PSE&G to meet with the employees,” said R. Fenimore Fisher, the organization’s executive director. “That request was denied.” Rhonda Price, a mechanic assistant at the company’s Clifton plant, said she was sexually harassed and called derogatory names. “I just want to work my eight hours and go home in one piece, the way I came. I have to look over my shoulder all the time,” Price said. Henry Torres, an Ecuadorean engineer at the company’s Trenton maintenance facility, said co-workers ridiculed his accent, and that a manager suggested that he be prostituted to raise money for the company. With 2003 revenues of $11.1 billion, PSE&G is ranked 176th on the Fortune 500 list of companies. It has more than 10,600 employees, and claims $28 billion in total assets. Shares of Public Service Enterprise Group, PSE&G’s parent company, closed down 92 cents at $45.09 in trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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