Friday, April 29, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: "Old N*%...Hurry Up and Die!"

Ganley Lincoln of Bedford Settles EEOC Racial Harassment Suit for $300,000

Former General Manager Jay Walsh Regularly Insulted and Mistreated African-Americans, Federal Agency Charges

CLEVELAND – Ganley Lincoln of Bedford, Inc., an auto dealership in Bedford, Ohio, will pay $300,000 to four African-Americans to settle a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on April 20th.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that Jay Walsh, Ganley’s general manager at the time, routinely used derogatory terms to refer to blacks, customers as well as employees, including the epithet “n----r.” Walsh, in referring to an older African-American employee, wished the “old n----r ... would hurry up and die.” Further, the agency charged, Walsh utilized a compensation system that disadvantaged black salespeople with regard to sales opportunities and commissions.

Racial discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit, No. 1:07cv2829, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary relief, the two-year consent decree settling the suit provides for training on employee rights and employer obligations under Title VII, as well as supervisor accountability with regard to racial discrimination. The decree also requires Ganley to post a notice to employees about the lawsuit that provides the EEOC’s contact information.

“Racial harassment is utterly unacceptable and illegal,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence. “It demeans the entire workplace as well as the direct victims. This settlement – both the monetary relief and the training -- will help ensure that African-Americans at this company will never have to face such abuse again.”

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


Thursday, April 28, 2011

It Can Be Stopped!

If you are the victim of racially-based or other harassment at work, your employer’s hands are not tied regarding effectively handling the situation in a manner that is likely to prevent your mistreatment from occurring again. Your employer has many options available to deter and stop harassment, regardless of the impression that those in authority (supervisors, Human Resources staff, etc.) may provide you.

When it comes to claims of racially-based harassment, companies do not like to respond—even though providing an adequate response to illegal behavior is in their best interest. Instead of squashing the careers of those who would harass a coworker or subordinate, many companies go into denial mode, which they believe offers some form of protection. In other words, if they didn’t know or “believe” that harassment was taking place, companies fool themselves into believing they are not legally liable for any damage that may have occurred to an employee’s career. But, deniability doesn’t automatically hold up under the law.

A company is legally responsible for preventing and stopping harassment from occurring. If you believe you are the victim of harassment (including retaliation and experiencing a hostile work environment), you should document everything that is occurring. You must show proof as to why your company must take action.

What can your employer do (or should be doing) to your harasser? Here are some options offered by EEOC regarding harassment in the workplace:

-- oral or writing warnings/reprimands
-- transfer or reassignment
-- demotion
-- salary cut
-- suspension
-- termination
-- training or counseling of harasser
-- monitoring the harasser to ensure that harassment stops

As you can see there are light and hard-hitting remedies available. It’s your job to know that these options are available to deal with harassment and to suggest some stringent form of punishment is doled out to your abuser. But, you have to prove your case or your company will sleepwalk through your entire ordeal. Document mistreatment, provide the names of witnesses who can verify your accounts and save harassing email and voicemail as proof that your abuser has gone overboard. Then, demand action is taken.

NOTE: Your employer cannot force you to transfer to another department to avoid your harasser. But, you can volunteer to move to another department if it is in the best interest of your career and/or mental health.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: Ralph Jones Sheet Metal Settles EEOC Racial Harassment Suit for $160,000

White Supervisor Routinely Insulted and Demeaned African-Americans, Federal Agency Charges

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Ralph Jones Sheet Metal, Inc., an architectural sheet metal company located in Memphis, will pay $160,000 to former African-American employees to settle a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on April 22nd.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that a white supervisor and other employees subjected African-American employees to racially offensive comments. The EEOC charged that the supervisor regularly referred to African-American employees with the epithet “n----r” and used other slurs. In addition, the EEOC charged that racial graffiti was on display in common areas and on company equipment.

Race discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit, No. 2:09-cv-02636, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division, after first attempting to settle the matter through its conciliation process.

In addition to monetary relief, the 18-month consent decree settling the lawsuit provides for training on employee rights under Title VII, and requires Ralph Jones Sheet Metal to maintain records of racial harassment complaints, provide annual reports to the EEOC, and post a notice to employees about the lawsuit that includes the EEOC’s contact information.

“Employees should not have to endure a racially hostile work environment as it is a violation of federal law,” said Faye Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office. “It is appalling that racial harassment and the use of racial slurs remain so pervasive in today’s workplace. The EEOC will continue to forcefully fight against this misconduct.”

According to company information, Ralph Jones Sheet Metal fabricates and installs architectural panels made from aluminum composite, copper and stainless steel.

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


Monday, April 25, 2011

Your behavior, after abuse, can be used against you to justify what's happened already. So don't act out & give a pretext or just cause to target you.
Don't perform at work! It's one thing to be upset, but it's another to be loud or vulgar because your emotions are running high. Always pause before speaking!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Be careful of the advice you take from coworkers. Not everyone has the good sense the Lord gave them & some are just mean & hateful. You live with the outcome!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You Got Me Twisted!

One of the things you have to be mindful of, if you are experiencing racially based discrimiation, harassment or retaliation, is that you might find yourself dealing with false accusations because your words have been twisted.

If a manager or employer, as a whole, is targeting you, there aren't many stones that they are willing to leave unturned in an effort to prove that you are at fault for whatever treatment you have received and to justify that treatment as a reasonable and appropriate response to what you've allegedly done.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to pause before you answer any questions and think carefully about what you say, if you participate in any meetings to discuss what's going on. You also have to be careful with what you say to coworkers because you never know who might take advantage of your situation.

Your words can be manipulated into all sorts of meanings, including possibly turning your words into threats.

I have a current coworker who says that an associate threatened her with physical violence. The associate said, "I got something for you. I'm going to talk to ____ (store manager)." The associate he said this to repeated everything except that he meant he was going to report her. Luckily, another coworker heard the exchange and could attest to the fact that he meant he was going to management, not that he was going to hit her, beat her down, call his sister to wait for her after work, etc. as was being alleged.

You just never know what real words will be twisted or better yet which words will be totally made up.

But, as I always say, don't give anyone ammunition to use against you. Stay away from profanity, don't make any statements that can be construed as a possible threat, don't threaten a lawsuit or outside intervention (just do it, if you're going to do it), don't talk about job searches, don't talk about the details of what's going on with your abuse at work because the walls talk, and just watch your back.

There are people who will help sabatoge you and who will help you out the door, if they feel there's something they can gain.

Think carefully about what you say and try to keep your emotions in check because that is when you are more likely to make a comment that you'll regret later!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: Targeted for Filing a Previous Complaint

The person in this Legal Brief filed an initial complaint of age discrimiation and then was denied a salary increase that was given to every other person of the same job classification. The purpose of this post is to remind everyone that if you have filed a complaint of any kind (age, retaliation, discrimination, gender bias, etc.), it is a violated of federal statutes to be targeted or treated differently than similarly situated/classified employees. Being treated differently could be construed as retaliation because you filed an earlier complaint. So age, in this case, can be substituted for race, color, etc.


Brooks County, Texas Sued by EEOC for Retaliation: Secretary in Treasurer’s Office Punished for Previous Age Bias Suit, Federal Agency Charges

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Brooks County, Texas violated federal law by retaliating against a secretary in the treasurer’s office because she had filed an age discrimination charge and lawsuit two years ago, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed On March 31st.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Brooks County refused to give a salary increase to the secretary in the treasurer’s office despite all other secretaries in county offices receiving higher salaries. Brooks County explained to the EEOC that the secretary in question was at the “maximum salary set for her job position” and “the maximum salaries for all secretarial/clerical job positions within Brooks County have remained the same for the last four budget years and no employees have received salaries in excess of the budget amounts.”

However, when Brooks County provided salary information, it became evident that every single person on its list of similarly situated employees had received salary raises or were hired at higher salaries. The EEOC also said that when the secretary was facing the elimination of her job, Brooks County failed to hire her in an open position in the county library because of her pending second EEOC charge.

The EEOC contends that the county was actually punishing the secretary for filing an age discrimination charge and then lawsuit against the county in 2009. At that time she was an assistant auditor in the county auditor's office and she identified her boss as the perpetrator of age discrimination. Later that same auditor was the main gatekeeper on all of the requests for higher secretarial salaries.

Retaliating against people who oppose what they believe to be discriminatory conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division (EEOC V. Brooks County, Texas, Civil Action No. 2:11-cv-00086) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay and liquidated damages, front pay and injunctive relief.

“We have observed an increase in retaliation claims at the EEOC,” said Judith G. Taylor, supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office, which is handling this case. “In fact, retaliation now accounts for the most numerous kind of discrimination charge. Employers cannot ignore the fact that employees have a guaranteed right to voice opposition to any violation of the ADEA without fear of repercussion. Punishing employees who exercise their right to report discrimination is a violation of federal law and will be rigorously enforced by the EEOC.”

Pat Connor, trial attorney for the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office, aid, “Even a small county employer must follow the law. The EEOC will continue to defend federally protected rights of all employees, public and private, large and small.”

In fiscal year 2010, the EEOC received 36,258 charges of retaliation, accounting for 36.3 percent of all charges, making it the most numerous kind of discrimination charge. The agency also received 23,264 charges of age discrimination in that year. This was an approximate 40 percent increase over the last 10 years, and encompassed 23 percent of the nearly 100,000 discrimination charges filed in 2010 overall.

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


Monday, April 04, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: Black Worker Suffers "Devastating Mental Injuries" in Physical Attack - $1 Million Judgment

When you think about some of the things many of us experience in the workplace, in regard to race-related abuses, you never expect to hear stories where the abuse became physical. In this legal brief, a Black female worker was harassed by a White coworker and this escalated into a physical assault that left her with permanent mental injuries.

I can think back to a friend/coworker having to deal with racially-based retaliation after complaining about comments from a White coworker. I remember her saying she had a bruise on her leg from this woman stepping into her as they passed each other. She said the woman was holding something hard and made sure it banged into her leg. And, my friend said it was becoming commonplace--this coworker stepping into her path so that she could bang into her. This was physical harassment!

Even though I believed her, she wouldn't make that up, I got to see it for myself, when I was walking down the stairs one day. This same woman, who was banging into my coworker, stepped into my path. She moved right into the middle of the stairs. We were either going to bang into each other or I was going to have to plaster myself to the wall to let her past. There was no way I could get past her. I remember thinking, "Oh my God! She's trying to run into me!" I literally had no way to get past her. Even if I stopped, she couldn't get by without running into me. She definitely wanted a physical confrontation because she knew I was friends with the person who outed her for racist remarks and reported it.

How did it end?

I can't tell a lie. I looked right at her and said...

"I will knock you down these stairs."

She plasted herself to the wall!

I'm glad she did because I think I would have pushed her down the stairs. I will not lie. I was preparing to put my hands on both of her shoulders and give her a good head over heels tumble down the stairs. She had been essentially assaulting my coworker and I took her actions as a direct physical threat to me. I did not take it lightly. When she came up the stairs, I was on the right heading down and she was on the left heading up. We were both using proper stairway etiquette. She looked up and saw it was me and, looking at me the whole time, stepped into the middle of the staircase. That registered as a physical threat to me.

As surprising as things like that were and still are to me, to hear about someone sustaining any type of mental injury from a physical assault is just upsetting. In the workplace? Really? This is what people do and are allowed to get away with.

Employers must do something about harassment and discrimination because if you tolerate it at all, you condone the behavior and embolden the perpetrator. That's how things can escalate, on either side. The perpetrator may attack the victim or the victim may just snap one day.

For more details on the legal brief, see below:


Judge Affirms $1 Million Judgment in EEOC Sex and Race Harassment Suit Against Whirlpool

NASHVILLE – A federal judge has affirmed a million-dollar judgment against Whirlpool Corporation in a sex and race harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the agency announced on April 1st.

Judge John T. Nixon denied Whirlpool Corporation’s motion to alter and/or amend the judgment of the court, entered on Dec. 21, 2009, that Whirlpool pay $1,073,261 in damages to the discrimination victim.

“This woman was victimized by serious, ongoing abuse, and was severely and permanently damaged as a result,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Faye Williams. “A sizeable amount of damages was called for, and we are pleased that the judge agreed.”

The EEOC’s lawsuit had charged that Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool violated federal law when it tolerated the harassment of Carlotta Freeman, an employee at a Whirlpool plant in LaVergne, Tenn., by a white male co-worker because of her race (black) and sex. The abuse lasted for two months, the EEOC said, until the co-worker physically assaulted Freeman and inflicted serious permanent injuries.

During the four-day trial, the court heard evidence that Freeman reported escalating offensive verbal conduct and gestures by the co-worker over a period of two months before he physically assaulted her. The court heard that four levels of Whirlpool’s management were aware of the escalating harassment, but that Whirlpool failed to take effective steps to stop it. Further, Freeman suffered devastating permanent mental injuries that will prevent her from working again as a result of the assault and Whirlpool’s failure to protect her.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 3:06-0593) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Following a bench trial, Judge Nixon awarded Freeman $773,261 in back pay and front pay, and $300,000 compensatory damages for non-pecuniary injuries.

On Jan. 15, 2010, Whirlpool requested that the court reduce the damages. The corporation claimed that the court had erred when, among other things, it awarded front and back pay without considering the fact that the plant where Freeman worked had closed. Whirlpool also claimed the court erred when it relied on certain information from Freeman’s expert witness.

In denying Whirlpool’s motion, Judge Nixon noted that it had “wide discretion to make whole the victim of unlawful discrimination.” For that reason, the court “declines to find that failing to so cut off the award of front pay to Freeman constitutes a clear error of law or manifest injustice.”

Carlota Freeman intervened in the case and was represented by Nashville attorneys Helen Rogers and Andy Allman.

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


Friday, April 01, 2011

If a group of employees is having an issue with a manager, instead of complaining to each other request a group meeting with the manager to discuss things.
When dealing with a problem manager who is unapproachable, it's OK to go over their head & speak to their superior. Go in a group, if it's a rampant problem!
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