LEGAL BRIEF: Settlement in Case of Black Employees Targeted With Racial Slurs and Fired for Complaining
The EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 03-cv-5413-SCR in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, White Plains Division) charged that Marjam discriminated against African American employees in its Newburgh warehouse facility on the basis of their race by subjecting them to differential discipline and termination, creating a hostile work environment, and retaliating against employees who objected to the discrimination.
The EEOC charged that a Marjam supervisor and other Marjam employees made unwelcome racial slurs and comments. The racially hostile workplace included repeatedly calling an employee the N-word, talking about the Ku Klux Klan and referring to burning crosses in front of African American employees. An employee who complained was fired, the EEOC’s lawsuit charged. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
“Egregious racial harassment still occurs in the 21st century workplace, even though some people may think such discrimination can only be found in history books,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “Hostile work environments are unacceptable. The EEOC is committed to vigorous enforcement of the employment anti-discrimination laws to ensure that every worker has an equal opportunity to reach his or her full potential.”
The consent decree was submitted to the district court judge for approval after the parties reached a settlement agreement in mediation. In addition to the $495,000 in back pay and compensatory damages to be paid to five former employees, the three-year consent decree includes the following injunctive relief:
Adopting non-discrimination and complaint procedures;
Appointing an Equal Employment Office Coordinator;
Establishing a toll-free number for reporting discrimination complaints;
Providing anti-discrimination training;
Issuing a memorandum to all employees on Marjam’s commitment to abide by all federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination;
Posting a notice about the EEOC, the lawsuit, and Marjam’s non-discrimination and complaint procedures; and
Monitoring and reporting on carrying out the settlement terms.
“Employers must recognize that they have a responsibility to prevent racial harassment in their workplace and to take swift action to correct any discrimination when it occurs,” said Spencer H. Lewis, director of the EEOC’s New York District Office. “In addition, retaliating against employees for complaining about discrimination is unlawful and taken very seriously by the Commission.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the federal agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.