Federal Agency Charged Employer Harassed and Discharged Black Employee Because of His Race
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—A waste disposal and recycling company has been ordered to pay $228,603 for violating federal law by harassing and then firing a truck driver because of his race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced.
According to the EEOC's suit, the company’s highest-level managers subjected its sole black driver, Michael Brooks, to discriminatory treatment during his employment, including assigning white drivers more favorable routes, requiring Brooks to perform degrading and unsafe work assignments. Brooks was also subjected to harassment such as racial slurs and racially derogatory insults, taunting and racial stereotypes, including the use of the "N-word." According to the EEOC, shortly before the 2008 presidential election, the company’s facility manager terminated Brooks without cause after discussing the upcoming election with him.
Racial discrimination, including racial harassment, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida after an investigation was completed by the EEOC's Mobile Local Office and after the agency first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
After depositions and other discovery in the case were completed and settlement discussions were unsuccessful, the company’s attorney withdrew from the case. Subsequently, the court found the company did not continue to assert its defenses and ignored several orders of the court, displaying a reckless and willful disregard for the judicial proceedings. As a result, a default judgment was entered by U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers, based upon evidence submitted by the EEOC. The court's judgment included lost wages and other damages suffered by Brooks.
"This case illustrates that race discrimination and harassment continue to be problems in the American workplace," said Gerald Miller, senior trial attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office. "The EEOC stands poised to target these violations in court."
Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC's Birmingham District, added, "No employee should have to be subjected to racial slurs, threats and intimidation. And no employer should ever allow its managers or supervisors to engage in continuous racial abuse of any employee. The EEOC will continue to pursue cases like this in our efforts to eradicate any vestiges of discrimination that continue to plague our country's workplaces."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
For more information on employment discrimination laws, or to protect your company from potential liability with the latest training and updates, please contact Berkshire Associates at 800.882.8904.