Just when we thought that we had had enough of racist epithets and nooses in the workplace, along come two settlements of EEOC lawsuits that illustrate just how virulent and ubiquitous racism still is in the US workplace.
First, the EEOC just announced a settlement with an Atlanta manufacturer, which will pay $500,000 to 14 employees to settle a racially hostile environment lawsuit. The suit alleged that graffiti and comments were directed at African-American employees, which included "KKK," swastikas, Confederate flags, "white power" and "die, n—-r, die." Hangman’s nooses were displayed, several employees were called "n—-r," one by his supervisor who later found a noose at his work station.
Second,according to the EEOC, a California trucking company and an earthmoving farming company have agreed to a settlement of $30,000 to an African-American driver and his white co-worker based upon a claim of racial harassment. The dispatcher allegedly called the African-American driver racial epithets such as "gorilla," "porch monkey," and the famous and oft-used N-word.
Two weeks ago we wearily discussed yet another case where the “N-word” was used, and where the ubiquitous image of a noose showed up. These are regular appearances in cases of hostile work environment based upon racial harassment. We cited a decision where a court stated that the frequent use of the “N-word” and racial jokes was "constitutionally offensive in any setting … No reasonable jury could find that a reasonable African-American would not be offended by this conduct."
Two EEOC attorneys summed up the egregiousness of the first case. One said that: "Racism in any form is bad enough, but racist graffiti that included Confederate flags and death wishes accompanied by vile racist epithets go far beyond the pale even of prejudice. Terms like ‘KKK’ evoke violent and threatening attitudes towards African-Americans.”
A second attorney said that "This case demonstrates racism at its most hateful level. The violations in this case are especially odious in light of the multiple reports of racist graffiti made by numerous employees.”
Will employers eventually learn that these are offensive and discriminatory, and will lead to EEOC crackdowns and monetary awards? As an EEOC attorney said: "Employers that receive notice of racial harassment should take prompt and effective measures to investigate, stop any unlawful conduct, and discipline those found responsible."