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Thursday, August 18, 2011

NYU Pays $210,000 to Worker Ridiculed as 'Monkey' and 'Gorilla' by Supervisor

An African immigrant received a $210,000 payout from NYU after his abusive mailroom supervisor repeatedly ridiculed him as a "monkey" and a "gorilla."

"Do you want a banana?" his boss asked NYU employee Osei Agyemang in one of many racist remarks reportedly made to the native of Ghana from July 2007 through January 2009.

The boss mocked the immigrant's accent as "gibberish," while telling him "go back to your cage" and "go back to the jungle," according to a September 2010 suit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The settlement between the Manhattan university and the one-time worker at the Bobst Library was made public yesterday.

"This suit shows that ugly harassment and retaliation can happen anywhere, even at a prestigious university," said EEOC attorney Gilliam Thomas, who represented Agyemang.

The lawsuit accused NYU of ignoring Agyemang's complaints about the stinging insults and racist cracks made while he worked in the library.

According to the suit, the harassment ended only after Agyemang's request for a transfer was granted. "This case goes back some years and involves the actions of an employee who is no longer with the university," said a statement from NYU spokesman John Beckman.

"Such behavior is extremely rare here, and totally at odds with the spirit of diversity and tolerance for which NYU is rightly known."

As part of the deal, NYU agreed to enhanced anti-discrimination policies to help prevent similar incidents.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Appeals Court Reinstates African-American Firefighter Suit

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK, Aug 15 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Monday reinstated a suit against the City of New Haven by an African-American firefighter who claimed the city's firefighter promotion exams were discriminatory.

In his opinion, chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, said that African-American firefighter Michael Briscoe was not precluded from suing New Haven, Connecticut. The ruling was surprising because a related, earlier ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court compelled New Haven to abide by the exam results. Jacobs' decision vacates a district court finding that sided with the city .

The case dates back to 2003, when New Haven sought to discard the results of a firefighter promotion exam where white firefighters significantly outperformed minorities. That act prompted a group of white firefighters and one hispanic firefighter to challenge the decision and sue New Haven.

The Supreme Court took up the case, Ricci v. DeStefano, in 2009. The court sided with the firefighters, ruling that New Haven had not shown sufficent evidence to prove that keeping the test results would have made it subject to disparate-impact liabity. Disparate impact laws were cemented under Title VII of the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights law.

Normally, that decision would have ended further litigation. But because Briscoe brought his claim separately, Jacobs ruled he had standing to sue New Haven, in spite of the conflicting Supreme Court decision.

In his opinion on Monday, Jacobs said that New Haven could not use the Supreme Court to shield it from Briscoe's disparate impact claims, and that the high court's opinion did not preclude him from suing.

"I think the opinion is essential to maintaining the vitality of the disparate impact theory of liability under Title VII," Briscoe's attorney, David Rosen, said.

Title VII, Rosen said, protects "against the arbitrary use of selection devices that continue to be barriers to employment for well-qualified workers across America who happen not to be good at the particular pencil and paper, multiple choice-format quiz that some employers still insist on using."

"At the end of the day, the City of New Haven believes that the U.S. Supreme Court held that certification of the promotional exams at issue in the Ricci v. DeStefano case should not result in disparate impact liability by African American firefighters after the fact," said City of New Haven Corporate Counsel Victor Bolden

The 2003 New Haven firefighter test at issue was 60 percent written and 40 percent oral. Briscoe in his lawsuit said that under a 30 percent written, 70 percent oral test he would have been promotable.

The case is Michael Briscoe v. The City of New Haven, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 10-1975.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Great Lakes Chemical Corporation Settles EEOC Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Manufacturer Unlawfully Terminated Black Employees, Federal Agency Charges

EL DORADO, Ark. – Great Lakes Chemical Corporation, a manufacturer and seller of chemical products in El Dorado, Ark., will pay $80,000 and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging racial discrimination, the agency announced on July 12th.

The EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 1:09-CV-01042) alleged that Great Lakes violated federal anti-discrimination law when it terminated several black employees because of their race. Specifically, the EEOC alleged that Great Lakes terminated black employees based upon discriminatory and subjective evaluations.

Race discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"The EEOC remains committed to promoting equality of opportunity in the workplace for members of all races. We believe the decree entered by the Court will ensure that African American employees are not singled out for discriminatory treatment,"said Regional Attorney Faye A. Williams of the EEOC's Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and certain counties in Mississippi.

In addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit enjoins Great Lakes from terminating employees in its El Dorado central location’s Inorganic Bromine (IOB) Unit on the basis of race. Great Lakes will also provide race and color discrimination training to all supervisory and management personnel in its IOB Unit and post a notice reinforcing the company’s policies on Title VII.

According to its website, Great Lakes is a business of Chemtura Corporation, a global specialty chemicals company. It is one of the three largest developers and manufacturers of bromine and bromine-based products.

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