Posts Tagged ‘management indifference’

Water Company Turned Blind Eye to Harassment, Retaliation Against Black Employees, EEOC Says

It’s going to take a concerted effort by all concerned–employees, managers, company executives–to extinguish racial harassment from the workplace. Here’s a case in point where management fell down on the job and the alleged harassment continued.

Aqua America, Inc., doing business as, Aqua Resources Inc., a Pennsylvania-based water company, violated federal law by subjecting black employees to a racially hostile work environ­ment and firing a foreman in retaliation for complaining about the harassment, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced on Oct. 4.

According to the suit, Aqua hired Henry Blue, who is African-American, in January 2015 as a foreman at its Bear, Del., facility. The EEOC charged that his supervisor, a white superintendent, and other white foremen repeatedly made racially offensive jokes and derogatory comments, including calling Blue and other black employees racial slurs such as “n—-r,” “monkey” and “boy.” The superintendent also told a white employee “not to n—-r the truck up,” the EEOC said.

Blue complained to company management officials about the offensive racial comments to which he and other black employees were subjected. Aqua not only failed to stop the harassment, but it even promoted one of the wrongdoers and assigned Blue to work under his supervision on a project, the EEOC said.  In May 2016, Aqua fired Blue in retaliation for complaining about the racially hostile work environ­ment, the EEOC charged.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to harass employees on the basis of race or to retaliate against individuals who complain about discrimination. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Aqua America, Inc., d/b/a Aqua Resources, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-04346) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. As part of the suit, the EEOC is seeking back pay on behalf of Blue and compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Blue and other class members, as well as broad injunctive relief.

“All employees have the right to earn a living without being subjected to racial epithets and derogatory comments,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.

EEOC District Director Kevin Berry added, “Aqua was put on notice about the vile harassment but punished one of the victims instead of the wrongdoers. The EEOC has provided detailed recommendations and resources to assist employers in preventing workplace harassment, but will take strong enforcement action when employers choose to ignore their legal obligation to have a workplace free from harassment and retaliation.”