Friday, January 22, 2010

LEGAL BRIEF: White Consultant Subjected Black Manager to Hostile Work Environment

What I like about this legal brief is that it shows that employers are liable for the discriminatory, harassing, and/or retaliatory actions of everyone on their payroll. So, when we think about "employee" abuses, we need to remember that this also can include workers, such as consultants and/or vendors. If an employer is aware that an employee is being subjected to illegal behavior, the employer is responsible to put a stop to it--immediately.

In this case, a Black manager was being harassed by a White consultant several times a week. When the Black manager complained, two White managers asked the consultant to stop the offensive behavior. The consultant did not.

Employers are obligated to prevent illegal behavior and to put a stop to it, once they realize what is happening. In this case, it seems the consultant was running wild and violating federal statutes at every opportunity. It's worth noting that the employers settled this case quickly. The case was filed in April 2009.

For details on the case, see the settlement news below:


Georgia Car Dealership to Pay $140,000 for Racial Harassment of Black Manager
EEOC Said Augusta Car Dealer Violated Federal Race Discrimination Law

ATLANTA – S&H Thomson, Inc., doing business as Stokes-Hodges Chevrolet Cadillac Buick Pontiac GMC, will pay $140,000 to settle a race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on January 14th. The agency had charged that the Augusta car dealer allowed a white male management consultant to subject an African American sales manager to a racially hostile work environment over a four-month period.

The EEOC first filed the suit in April 2009 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit against S&H Thomson, Inc., the white consultant visited the car dealership three to four times a week and never missed an opportunity to make racially derogatory comments towards the black sales manager. The sales manager was subjected to humiliating and degrading comments every time the consultant visited the dealership and almost always in the presence of other people. After the black sales manager complained about the derogatory comments, two white managers asked the consultant to stop his discriminatory behavior. The consultant ignored their requests to cease and continued to make the derogatory comments at every opportunity.

The consent decree settling the suit, in addition to the monetary relief of $140,000, includes provisions for equal employment opportunity training, reporting, and posting of anti-discrimination notices. In the suit and consent decree, S&H Thomson, Inc., denied any liability or wrongdoing.

Race discrimination violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. In the lawsuit, the federal agency sought compensatory and punitive damages for the harmed employee, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“This is an outrageous case where an African American employee was subjected to humiliating and degrading behavior,” said Bernice Kimbrough, district director for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “What is also disturbing about these allegations is that the white management consultant ignored requests by other white managers to stop making the racially derogatory comments.”

Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, added, “We are pleased with the employer’s efforts to quickly resolve this dispute, while taking positive steps to remain in compliance with the law in the future. We are committed to eradicating this type of discrimination in the workplace.”

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


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