Posts Tagged ‘racially hostile environment’

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.”

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EEOC: Harassment Pervasive Against African American Employee at Sporting Goods Store

No one should have to put up at work with what an African American employee at a Washington State sports retail store had to put up with.

One of the Western United States’ largest sports retailers, Big 5 Sporting Goods, violated federal law when it allowed ongoing racial harassment, including death threats, and retaliatory discipline against a black manager trainee at its Oak Harbor, Wash., store, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed on July 20.

Robert Sanders was the only African-American employee at Big 5’s location on Whidbey Island. According to the EEOC’s investigation, the store manager and various assistant managers called Sanders “spook,” “boy” and “King Kong” and told him that he had the “face of a janitor.” The agency found that even though Sanders repeatedly reported this conduct to upper management, the company failed to act and Sanders instead faced escalated harassment as well as retaliation in the form of increased workloads, denial of breaks, and unwarranted discipline. After he was forced to take several leaves due to stress, one assistant manager told Sanders, “We will hang you, we will seriously lynch you if you call in again this week.” Another assistant manager asked Sanders if he was “ready to commit suicide,” offering “assistance” when he was ready to do so.

“I came prepared to work hard and put in my dues to become a manager,” Sanders said. “But I was met with comments about my race: ‘You’re the perfect definition of ‘spook’ because your skin is so dark, but your teeth are so white.’ And it went downhill from there, to being taunted by another manager trainee about ‘ending up in a river, dead.’ Whidbey Island is a small place, and I didn’t want to leave my house. I felt like Big 5 took away my ability to not just succeed at work, but to simply live my life with dignity and without fear.”

Racial harassment and retaliation violate Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a prelitigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp., Civil Number 2:17-CV-01098.) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The EEOC seeks monetary damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief to remedy and prevent harassment and retaliation in the workplace.

EEOC Trial Attorney Carmen Flores said, “Mr. Sanders simply wanted to come to work and earn a living. Instead, his promising career opportunity was poisoned by hate and threats from his managers and coworkers. I hope that our lawsuit in this case will send a message to all employers that they need to take swift action when alerted to workplace harassment.”

Nancy Sienko, field director for the Seattle office of the EEOC’s San Francisco District, added, “The delay by Big 5 to take action to investigate and stop the racial harassment and retaliation is in­excusable. The slurs and threats that Mr. Sanders faced have a terrible history and should never be tolerated. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all employees can work in a safe environ­ment free from racial hostility so they can succeed to their highest potential.”

Big 5 Sporting Goods is headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., and operated 433 stores as of Jan. 1, 2017, with9,000 full-time employees.

Squishy Boxspring: Matress Co. to Pay $175 to Settle Racial Harassment Charges Filed by EEOC

It’s going to cost a major mattress manufacturer a bundle of money to put allegations of racial harassment behind it.

That’s the word from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which charged Sealy of Minnesota with subjecting African American and Hispanic employees to a racially hostile environment.

The offensive actions included  noose, a Ku Klux Klan hood and racist epithets and jokes. Despite complaints by employees to Sealy’s senior management, the offensive conduct did not cease, the EEOC charged.

The company agreed to pay $175,000 to settle, the commission announced on Friday.

“Sealy now understands that it is not enough for an employer to have an anti-harassment policy,” said Julie Schmid, acting director of the EEOC’s Minneapolis Area Office. “An employer must have an effective policy, respond to allegations promptly, and take immediate and appropriate corrective action to end the discrimination.”

Black Workers Victims of Hostile Work Environment at Minn. Company, EEOC Alleges

The election of Donald Trump as president may or may not have reflected a racial divide in our society, but it is clear that work of eradicating racial hostility in the workplace goes on.

Latest example: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced November 3  it has sued a construction company in Hugo, Minnesota, where it alleges African American employees were subjected to a hostile work environment because of their race.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, William Staple and Dion Pye worked for JL Schwieters Construction, Inc., located in Hugo, as carpenters between September 2012 and December 2013. Staple and Pye were both subjected to racial harassment during their employment by a white supervisor.

EEOC said the harassment included the supervisor making racially derogatory comments to Staple and Pye, including calling them “n—-r.” The supervisor told Staple and Pye that he had a gun, and made threats that he could “shoot a n—-r a mile away.” The supervisor made a noose out of electrical wire and threated to hang Staple and Pye, EEOC alleged. The harassment was witnessed by other supervisors, but no action was taken to stop it. According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Pye complained to another supervisor and the company’s safety director about the harassment, but no action was taken to stop or prevent the harassment.