A new jury verdict and another new lawsuit illustrate that in racially hostile work environment cases the use of the same derogatory words and racist tropes keep popping up. The same slurs are used, and a noose is displayed.
We blogged yesterday about a new EEOC lawsuit which alleged hostile work environment involving “despicable racial harassment.” We quoted an EEOC attorney who said that "It is unconscionable that in the 21st century anyone should have to work in a racially hostile environment riddled with highly offensive acts of intimidation simply to earn a decent living."
The EEOC just announced that a federal jury awarded $200,000 in punitive damages to three former employees of AA Foundries, a San Antonio company, who claimed racial harassment similar to the type experienced by the plaintiff's in the newly-filed lawsuit that we discussed. In the AA case, a top company plant official “used the "N" word” and a superintendent called adult African-American male employees "mother-f---g boys." Moreover, after several employees filed relevant charges with the EEOC, a noose was displayed in the workplace.
The EEOC also announced the settlement of a suit which alleged that a Mississippi-based company "subjected a black employee to racial harassment, including racial taunts and insults, and then terminated him in retaliation for his opposition to the misconduct. The harassment included the display of a noose, and the use of racially derogatory terms by a supervisor (emphasis added)."
What could be more obviously discriminatory, horrendous and racist than the use of these same derogatory words or the display of a noose. The award of punitive damages by an outraged jury is the result of failing to adequately train supervisors and employees, failing to have appropriate employment policies and manuals, and, especially, failing to promulgate and disseminate a “zero tolerance” policy as to any type of workplace harassment. Once again, employers who somehow think that they are immune from discrimination claims are either just foolish or unaware of what goes on in their workplace, But have little doubt -- the EEOC will let them know.