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Thursday, April 28, 2011

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

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 www.eeoc.gov.

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/4-22-11.cfm

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Black Capitol Police staff complain about discrimination

By Debbie Siegelbaum - 04/19/11 05:47 PM ET

More than 50 black employees of the U.S. Capitol Police have filed a complaint Tuesday, alleging discrimination by the police force.

Their action comes 10 years after nearly 300 employees filed a class action discrimination lawsuit, a suit that remains unresolved.

In a press conference, members of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association announced they intended to file a classwide request for counseling with the Office of Compliance, which will “initiate a process that will in all likelihood lead to yet another discrimination complaint” filed against Capitol Police, according to association member and Capitol Police Lt. Frank Adams.

Cited as reasons for the action are reprisals, hostile work environment and discrimination committed against black employees by the Capitol Police, the Capitol Police Board and the senior employment counsel for both, Frederick Herrera.

“The United States Capitol Police Department continues to project a model culture of discrimination as reflected in a ‘modern day version of a 19th Century Southern Plantation in law enforcement,’” Adams said.

The U.S. Capitol Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2001, current and former black Capitol Police officers and employees filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, citing discrimination by the Capitol Police Board. Blackmon-Malloy v. U.S. Capitol Police Board has yet to be resolved, but the number of plaintiffs has been whittled down in the intervening years due to deaths or plaintiff settlements.

Current complainant and former Capitol Police officer Mary Rhone spoke of the bullying and harassment she experienced in her time on the police force, and called for an end to such conduct.

“I never thought that I would be standing here after 10 years fighting for the same justice that we fought,” she said. “And yet, I stand here today filing another complaint.”

Rhone also called on lawmakers to intercede in the matter.

“I would hope that after all these years that Congress would take a step, and while they’re fighting oppression in all the other states, that they would come on Capitol Hill and fight the oppression that we’ve been fighting for 10 years,” she said. “And yet they remain silent.”

According to the association, to date there are approximately 20 active and related discrimination cases alleging reprisals, denial of promotions to upper ranks, denial of career-enhancing training opportunities and a hostile work environment against black employees of the Capitol Police.

The association also alleges that the chief of police and members of the Capitol Police Board have done little to nothing to eliminate inequities, and black officers have been kept from the upper ranks of the police force.

Following the press conference, members of the association officially filed the complaint with the Office of Compliance.

“I will fight until I have no more breath in me because discrimination is something I will not stand for, and this organization will not stand for,” Rhone said of the action. “And I will file as many complaints as it takes.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: Channel 25 (Oklahoma) Settles EEOC Race and Sex Bias Suit

KOKH and Parent Company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Paid Black Female Reporter Less Than Coworkers, Federal Agency Charged

OKLAHOMA CITY – KOKH-TV (Fox 25) in Oklahoma City will pay $45,000 and additional consideration to a veteran African-American TV news reporter to settle a race and sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on March 3rd. The settlement terms are set forth in a proposed Consent Decree, approval of which is pending before the Court.

The EEOC charged that Phyllis Williams’ employers, KOKH and its parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, paid her lower wages than comparable white female reporters and male reporters of all races, and subjected her to unequal terms and conditions of employment until August 2007, when she signed an employment contract for a higher salary. Sinclair and KOKH had routinely offered employment contracts to other reporters at Channel 25. Williams has reported for Fox 25 since 1996.

Fox Broadcasting Company, which has an affiliate agreement allowing the station to use the Fox name, did not employ Williams and was not a party to the lawsuit.

Race and sex discrimination violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (EEOC, et al. v. KOKH, et al., Case No. 5:07-cv-01043-D) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

After the EEOC filed its charges, Williams intervened in the EEOC’s suit and added a retaliation claim under a separate civil rights statute known as Section 1981, which prohibits race discrimination and retaliation for reporting the same. KOKH and Sinclair agreed to resolve her Section 1981 claim in a private settlement for consideration in addition to the $45,000 being paid to resolve the Title VII claim.

In addition to monetary payment, during the three-year term of the consent decree KOKH and Sinclair must post an anti-discrimination notice, disseminate an anti-discrimination policy, and provide live training on preventing sex and race discrimination on at least an annual basis to all KOKH employees.

“This decree will remind KOKH Channel 25, Sinclair and all news organizations to treat their employees equally as required by law, including women and people of color, who traditionally have been the victims of job discrimination,” said Barbara Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Oklahoma. “The notice posting and training required by the consent decree will go far in educating the station’s managers on their employees’ right to work in an environment free of race and sex discrimination.”

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

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/3-3-11a.cfm

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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

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:

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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 www.eeoc.gov.

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/4-1-11.cfm

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 www.eeoc.gov.

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/3-31-11.cfm