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Employee Who Endured Racist Slurs & Racial Intimidation Worked In Hostile Environment EEOC Lawsuit Charges

Black and White Hands

Having represented racial discrimination victims for more than twenty years, our Ocala, Florida racial discrimination attorneys know that employees continue to experience racially abusive behavior in the workplace. As the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals explained in Delph v. Dr. Pepper Bottling Co. of Paragould, Inc., 130 F.3d 349 (8th Cir. 1997), a racial hostile work environment is “an ongoing nightmare for the employee victim.” In far too many cases, our Marion County, Florida racial discrimination lawyers have learned, employers require employees to endure racially abusive behavior in return for the privilege of their job. In this article, our Ocala, Florida racial discrimination attorneys explain how a racial harassment case recently settled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) demonstrates that federal employment discrimination law protects employees from racially abusive behavior in the workplace.

Racial Harassment Lawsuit

In a press release issued on June 1, 2021, the EEOC announced that it has entered into a Consent Decree resolving a racial harassment lawsuit against American Rivers Transportation Company (American River). On September 26, 2019, the EEOC filed the racial harassment case, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. American Rivers Transportation Company, Case No. 2:19-cv-12933, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. In the Consent Decree, which was endorsed by the U.S. District Court Judge on June 1, 2021, American River agreed to pay $40,000 to resolve the racial harassment lawsuit.

Rights Of Racial Harassment Victims

The EEOC filed the racial harassment lawsuit under to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of an employee of American River, Lionel Jones (Jones). Title VII makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against employees on the basis of race. Under well-established law, racial harassment is a form of race discrimination forbidden by Title VII. Racial harassment that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile or abusive working environment violates Title VII’s prohibition against race discrimination. The EEOC contends that American River required Jones to work a racial hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.

EEOC Claims Racial Hostile Work Environment

Jones, who is African-American, began working for American River as a deckhand in September 2016. Jones was initially assigned to work on American River’s Louisiana Star vessel. After commencing his employment, according to the EEOC, Jones was continuously subjected to racial slurs by American River employees. One employee, Hampton, was the source of most of the racially abusive behavior. Jones initially complained to the Captain of the Louisiana Star about the on-going racial slurs in the workplace. The Captain told Jones that there was nothing he could do about employees who used racially offensive language.

A few months after his employment began, Jones and the rest of the Louisiana Star crew transferred to the Louisiana Legacy vessel. After the transfer, the EEOC maintains, the racially abusive behavior continued unabated in its frequency and severity. In June 2017, while on the Louisiana Legacy, Jones saw Hampton carrying a line of rope that had been fashioned into a noose. Hampton, without saying anything to Jones, placed the noose on the deck of the vessel where Jones and another African-American employee were working. Jones immediately lodged a complaint with the Captain of the vessel. After the Captain asked to see the noose, Jones brought the noose to him. The Captain, however, never spoke about the matter with Jones again. Nor did the Captain subject Hampton to any disciplinary action for the noose or his racially abusive language.

Believing that his racial harassment complaint had not been properly addressed, Jones sent a letter to American River’s personnel manager about the racial harassment in the workplace. Even though Jones showed the personnel manager photographs of the noose, American River still did not subject Hampton to any disciplinary action. Jones then made a complaint to American River’s operations manager. As with Jones’ prior complaints, American River failed to take any corrective action to protect Jones from further racial harassment. In September 2017, Jones transferred to a different vessel in order to get away from Hampton.

Helping Racial Harassment Victims

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States with the obligation under federal law for interpreting and enforcing the federal employment laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In order to deter and punish employers who engaged in unlawful discriminatory employment practices, the EEOC brings lawsuits in federal court on behalf of employment discrimination victims.

In a press release issued by the EEOC on June 1, 2021 regarding the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Houston District Office, Rudy Sustaita, stated that “Title VII protects workers from racial harassment and company must comply with this law.” The EEOC “will continue to bring lawsuits to enforce the law,” Mr. Sustaita added, “especially in instances where there was egregious racial harassment in the workplace.” In commenting on the case, a trial attorney for the EEOC, Lloyd Van Oosternrijk, explained that “employers must always take prompt remedial action when incidents of racial harassment are reported by employees.”

Ocala, FL Racial Discrimination Attorneys

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida racial discrimination lawyers have more than twenty years of experience representing employees who have been subjected to racially offensive conduct in the workplace. If you have experienced racial harassment at work or have questions about your rights as a racial discrimination victim under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida racial discrimination attorneys. Our employment and labor law attorneys take racial 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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