Friday, October 09, 2009

LEGAL BRIEF: Black Worker Subjected to Noose and Racist Symbols at Work Site

The Legal Brief gives everyone an idea of some of the types of cases that EEOC litigates, provides information on anti-discrimination legal proceedings/court rulings, and identifies some of the specific race-based issues that other Blacks have faced and challenged in the workplace. The Legal Brief also provides insight into the arguments presented by EEOC and the defenses offered by employers. This information may be helpful to workers, who may be considering filing a complaint or seeking legal counsel, as well as to employees who feel they are becoming embroiled in race-related issues at work.

In this legal brief a Black worker was subjected to a noose (made from insulation) and other racist symbols, such as the swastika.

Symbols such as these, by themselves, represent examples of single incidencs which will immediately rise to the egregious category of offenses because of the history of these symbols. It is known and accepted by courts that the noose is part of the history of lynching/murder and was also used as a visual sign of intimidation (along with burning crosses).

It doesn't take repeated incidences of noose hangings and swastikas to make the incident more serious. Again, one instance is recognized as egregious. For more details on the complaint, see below:



Noose and Other Racist Symbols at Work Site; Employee Fired When He Complained, Federal Agency Charges

PHOENIX -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced on October 1st that it has filed an employment discrimination suit against Spartan Plumbing, Inc., a company that provides plumbing services in Tucson, Ariz., and Las Vegas, Nev. In its lawsuit, EEOC v. Spartan Plumbing Inc, (Civil Action No 09-547 TUC-RCC), filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, the EEOC charges that the employee in this case was subjected to harassment based on his race, Black.

The suit alleges that supervisors and coworkers subjected the black employee to racial slurs and less desirable work assignments on a daily basis throughout his tenure at Spartan. In June 2007, the employee reported to work and encountered a swastika, “KKK,” and other symbols scrawled in paint on the floor of the work site, the EEOC said. He also found a noose made of insulation at the same location. After he reported the incident to management, he was fired as retaliation, the EEOC said.

Race discrimination in the workplace, including racial harassment, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC will seek monetary damages, including compensatory and punitive damages for the employee. In addition, the EEOC is seeking relief that calls for Spartan Plumbing to institute and implement policies designed to eradicate and prevent future episodes of race discrimination.

“The incidents alleged in this complaint remind us that racism remains a factor in the work­place,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office. “Such bold racist actions must be addressed and eradicated by employers in the work environment. The EEOC will continue to vigorously defend the federally protected rights of victims who are subjected to discrimination and who exercise their rights to complain about discrimination to employers.”

EEOC Phoenix Acting District Director Rayford O. Irvin added, “Our investigation found that this racist misconduct was tolerated in the workplace and the company compounded the problem by firing the victim. This only makes a bad situation worse.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at



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