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Electric Boat investigating employee's Facebook comments related to protests against police brutality

Electric Boat is investigating comments posted on Facebook by an employee related to the ongoing mass demonstrations across the country against police violence and racial injustice.

The employee, Shawn Chatelle, a nuclear pipe welder, recently made several comments on a Facebook post, one of which is circulating widely and says: “(Expletive) losers. All need to be hung in the park.”

Chatelle has since deleted his Facebook account but screenshots of the comment and others he made are circulating on the social media site. The post on which Chatelle was commenting is not included in the screenshots.

Reached by phone Friday afternoon, Chatelle said he was commenting on a Facebook post by someone else that included a video showing a group of men, some of whom are carrying two-by-fours, smashing the front of a business in Rochester, N.Y., and attacking a woman who is standing in front of the entryway.

“This is not a color issue. It’s not a racist issue,” Chatelle said in a phone interview, adding that his issue is with the “looters” and “people who are beating up innocent bystanders.”

“I didn’t state one racist thing in that remark,” he said, referring to his Facebook comment.

A separate comment made by Chatelle, which also was captured in a screenshot and is circulating on Facebook, says: “So you think it’s Ok for all you people out there to loot and burn buildings down and beat up innocent people for protecting their businesses? That’s Ok to you? Sorry but all that (expletive) isn’t going to bring back (George) Floyd or any other person.”

EB spokeswoman Liz Power said by email Friday that the company is aware of the comments and is investigating. She declined to comment further.

Chatelle retained a lawyer after he said his supervisor told him Thursday night that he should not return to work until he hears from the company's human resources department. He said he and his family have received death threats following his comments. 

In a companywide message Friday, Matt Luxton, general counsel and vice president for human resources and administration at EB, said, “While the company respects each individual’s right to free speech, when that speech damages the work environment, or has a negative impact on our company’s reputation or ability to do business, employees need to be aware that there could be consequences associated with their behavior.”

He also included EB’s harassment policy in his message, which “prohibits statements, actions, and behaviors that denigrate, deride, disparage, or show hostility or aversion toward an individual or group because of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, marital status, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, transgender status, military service, or protected status.”

“Offenders who are EB employees will be subject to discipline, up to and including discharge, even if the offending conduct does not constitute prohibited harassment,” the policy says.

Chatelle, who said he has worked at EB for five years and is a member of the Metal Trades Council, said he was expressing his First Amendment rights and that he made the comment on his personal Facebook page, not at work.

One of the people who posted a screenshot of Chatelle’s comment on Facebook had garnered nearly 500 comments as of 4:30 p.m. Friday. Many who commented said they had reached out to EB to complain. Some shared screenshots of emails or Facebook messages they sent to the company.

j.bergman@theday.com 

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