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EEOC Race Discrimination Case Claiming Employer Tolerated Racial Hostile Work Environment Settles

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Having litigated race discrimination cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years, our Marion County, Florida race discrimination attorneys know that many employers fail or refuse to punish employees who engage in racially harassing behavior in the workplace. Instead of punishing racial harassers, our Ocala, Florida race discrimination lawyers have learned, employers force employees to endure racial abuse at work as a condition of their continued employment. In doing so, employers create or maintain a racially hostile work environment in violation of federal employment discrimination law. In this article, our Marion County, Florida race discrimination attorneys explain how the alleged facts in a racial harassment lawsuit recently settled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) illustrate that employees have a remedy under federal employment discrimination law when an employer tolerates racial harassment in the workplace.

Racial Harassment Lawsuit

On July 9, 2021, the EEOC issued a press release announcing that it has entered into a Consent Decree settling a racial harassment lawsuit against Cardinal Health 200, LLC (Cardinal Health) and Howroyd-Wright Employment Agency, d/b/a AppleOne Employment Services (AppleOne). On May 21, 2019, the EEOC filed the racial harassment lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v.  Cardinal Health 200, LLC and Howroyd-Wright Employment Agency, d/b/a AppleOne Employment Services, In the Consent Decree, which was endorsed by U.S. District Court Judge Conseulo B. Marshall on July 8, 2021, Cardinal Health and AppleOne agreed to pay $1.45 million to resolve the racial harassment case.

Employers Must Stop Racial Harassment

The EEOC filed the racial harassment lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of African-American employees employed by Cardinal Health and AppleOne. Under Title VII, employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of race. In interpreting Title VII, courts have consistently ruled that racial harassment is a form of race discrimination prohibited by Title VII.

To violate Title VII, racial harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile working environment. Forbidden forms of racial harassment include racial slurs, racial remarks, racial code words, racial graffiti, and any verbal or physical conduct that targets an employee for race-based abuse. Once an employer knows or should know of racial harassment in the workplace, Title VII mandates that the employer take immediate and appropriate corrective action to prevent the recurrence of the racial harassment. If an employer fails to take corrective measures, or where the corrective measures do not stop the racial harassment, the employer is liable under Title VII for creating or maintaining a racially hostile work environment.

Employees Allege Racial Hostile Environment

Cardinal Health is a health services company. AppleOne is a staffing agency. Cardinal Health and AppleOne maintained a contractual relationship where AppleOne assigned temporary employees or temporary-to-permanent employees to Cardinal Health. The EEOC contends that African-American employees who worked at Cardinal Health’s warehouse in Ontario, California were required to work in a racially hostile work environment. Some of the racially harassed employees were assigned by AppleOne to work at Cardinal Health’s warehouse. Other racially harassed employees were employed directly by Cardinal Health. Cardinal Health, according to the EEOC, exercised control over all of the racially harassed employees.

The EEOC maintains that the racial abuse endured by African-American employees included a steady barrage of racial slurs in the workplace. The EEOC contends that employees at Cardinal Health’s warehouse, including supervisors and managers, used racial slurs on a daily basis. The EEOC further contends that African-American employees were subjected to racially derogatory graffiti. Since at least December 2016, according to the EEOC, the restrooms at Cardinal Health’s warehouse have been defaced with racially derogatory graffiti, including racial slurs and physical threats.

The EEOC maintains that Cardinal Health and AppleOne had actual knowledge of the racially abusive behavior in the warehouse because employees complained to the management of Cardinal Health and AppleOne about the racial harassment. Despite having actual knowledge of the pervasive racial abuse, the EEOC contends, Cardinal Health and AppleOne both failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective measures to stop the racial harassment. For example, the EEOC claims that neither Cardinal Health nor AppleOne adequately investigated complaints of racial harassment or properly disciplined the racial harassers. The EEOC further claims that Cardinal Health and/or AppleOne violated Title VII by retaliating against employees who lodged racial harassment complaints by refusing to hire temporary employees to full-time positions and terminating their employment.

Lawyers For Race Discrimination Victims

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the federal government responsible for interpreting and enforcing the federal employment laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. As part of its efforts to preserve and protect the rights of employment discrimination victims, the EEOC files lawsuits in federal court on behalf of employees subjected to unlawful discriminatory employment practices, including racial harassment.

In a press release issued by the EEOC on July 9, 2021, regarding the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, Anna Park, observed that the “EEOC has seen an increase in race harassment allegations across industries and localities.” In commenting on the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, Rosa Viramontes, explained that “employers and staffing agencies need to understand that both entities bear the responsibility to address and correct harassment and retaliation in the workplace.” “Employees should not have to choose between their livelihoods,” Ms. Viramontes added, “and the detrimental effects that race harassment can have on them.”

Marion County, FL Race Discrimination Attorneys

Based in Ocala, Florida, and representing workers in counties throughout Central Florida, our Ocala, Florida race discrimination lawyers have represented race discrimination victims for more than twenty years. If you have experienced racial harassment in the workplace or have questions about your protection from racial harassment at work, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Marion County, Florida race discrimination attorneys. Our employment and labor law attorneys take race discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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