Tuesday, May 19, 2009

LEGAL BRIEF: Company Fired Employee for Complaining About Manager’s Racist Comments, EEOC Charged

This is a really good legal brief because it is rare to see one piece of evidence that shows a direct connection between a worker complaining about a race-based issue and an employer taking direct actions against that worker because of the complaint. Normally, workers have to show a bunch of circumstantial evidence that shows that a certain incident happened AND that they were retaliated against because of that incident. This might include needing all sorts of witness corroboration and having to rely on folks to tell the truth about what they heard and saw.

In this case, a worker complained about a safety officer's racially offensive comments and an investigation was conducted. The person making the offensive remarks was fired.

But, that wasn't enough for some. Weeding out the racist didn't end it. The complaining employee now seemed to represent a threat to those who remained and was seen as a potential liability to have around. A false allegation was raised about the complaining worker. The HR manager not only sent an email recommending the firing of this worker based on the false allegation, but also mentioned that the worker is the one who accused the safety officer of making racially offensive comments. The HR manager did this in the SAME EMAIL. One important note, the HR manager recommended firing without conducting an investigation.

That is a big deal because it highlights that the firing was connected to the complaint. The decision-makers were being encouraged to use the complaint as incentive to fire the complaining worker.

It's not a surprise that this one piece of evidence led to a settlement in that case. See the details below:


HOUSTON – Conroe, Texas-based Maverick Tube Corporation will pay $175,000 to settle a retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced last Thursday.

The EEOC’s lawsuit, filed in June 2007, (C.A. 4:07-cv-02033 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division), charged that in May 2005, Maverick Tube retaliated against Andra Williams by firing him after he reported to its president and chief operating officer the safety manager’s racially offensive comments.

The company investigated Williams’s complaint and, as a result, discharged the manager. But, less than a month after he reported the comments, Williams was fired after he was falsely accused of saying he would call the company’s president to report his supervisor if he was not permitted to have a requested vacation day. Before conducting any investigation into the allegation made against Williams, the regional human resources manager stated in an e-mail that Williams should be immediately fired. In that same e-mail, the HR manager reminded his readers that Williams had recently complained about the safety manager’s racial comments.

Retaliation for complaining about discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

The four-year consent decree settling the suit, signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen W. Smith, requires the company to pay $175,000 in monetary relief to Williams. Additionally, the decree requires annual mandatory training on Title VII for all of the company’s managers and employees at its Conroe facility. That training must include instruction regarding the illegality of retaliating against employees who complain about conduct which they believe to be discriminatory. The company must also post an anti-discrimination notice, provide monitoring reports to the EEOC and issue a disciplinary notice to the company’s regional human resources manager.

“Retaliation is an issue of special concern to the EEOC,” said Kathy D. Boutchee, the EEOC senior trial attorney in charge of the case. “Employees have the clear right to report employment practices which they believe are discriminatory without fear of retribution. This case should serve as a firm reminder to employers that it is unlawful to retaliate against an individual for exercising his statutory right to report, oppose or complain about discrimination or to file a charge of discrimination.”

Jim Sacher, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office, added, “When the EEOC brings suit, it does so to benefit the public at large. For that reason, the disciplining of an errant human resources manager, the inclusion of annual training for managers and employees, monitoring of future complaints of discrimination and retaliation and other injunctive relief are all equally important parts of the settlement.”

Maverick Tube Corporation is a subsidiary of Tenaris. According to its website, it is a leading supplier of tubes and related services for the energy industry. It has 24,000 employees.

Retaliation charges filed with the EEOC rose from 26,663 in Fiscal Year 2007 to 32,690 in FY 2008, and have nearly tripled in the last 15 years.

The EEOC enforces the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation. Additional information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s website at www.eeoc.gov.


Blogger Arizona foreclosures said...

This is very interesting information. Texas

11:52 PM  
Anonymous foodserviceguru@cox,net said...

I was Fired because I complained
about my supervisor saying the CRAZ
y BIG N about a black person that
worked there they said workplace ha
rrsement is the reason they fired me I fild with eeoc. What she said
was ( my husband said I should take
him a room tell him he is one CRAZY
BIG N). foodserviceguru@cox.net

2:03 AM  

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