Hispanic Workers Subjected to Slurs, Federal Agency Charged; Company to Rescind Restrictive Language Policy; Settlement Largest Ever for Utah
PHOENIX - Grand Junction, Colo.-based Mesa Systems, Inc., a moving and storage company, has agreed to pay $450,000 and furnish other relief required by a court-ordered consent decree to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. This is the largest national origin employment discrimination settlement ever achieved by the EEOC in Utah.
"In its Strategic Enforcement Plan, the EEOC made it a priority to protect workers who are the most vulnerable," said EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien. "This settlement is an important demonstration of this renewed commitment."
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Hispanic workers employed at Mesa Systems' Salt Lake City warehouse were subjected to discrimination based on national origin. The immigrant employees were subjected to a hostile work environment in many ways, including racist name calling and slurs, such as "(expletive deleted) Mexicans," "(expletive deleted) you, mojado" [wetback] by the warehouse managers.
The EEOC also alleged that employees of various national origins were subjected to a restrictive language policy that had a disparate impact against Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders. The EEOC further claimed that a number of employees suffered retaliation, including terminations and reductions in hours, after two employee petitions and other complaints were submitted to management about the national origin discrimination. Mesa denied it violated the law.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Mesa Systems, Inc., 11-cv-01201-RJS-BCW, filed in U.S District Court for the District of Utah, after first attempting to resolve the case informally through its conciliation process. In addition to the historic monetary settlement of $450,000, Mesa Systems has agreed to extensive injunctive relief, including training; revision of policies; the rescission of the restrictive language policy; apologies to the victims of discrimination; anti-discrimination notice posting; reporting to the EEOC; and programs to stop any future violations of Title VII.
"We are very pleased that we were able to work out a strong settlement of this case with Mesa Systems," said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez. "This case is representative of the EEOC's proud history of ensuring that workplaces are free of discrimination based on national origin."
EEOC Phoenix District Director Rayford Irvin said, "Offensive slurs and comments deriding one's national origin violate federal law and are never appropriate in the workplace. Employers need to ensure that this behavior is not allowed."
Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney for the Phoenix District, added, "We are gratified that Mesa Systems resolved this case early in the litigation process. We appreciate that they have agreed to policy changes, training and injunctive relief in order to ensure that their workplace is a more positive work environment."
According to its website, Mesa Systems delivers premium, customized mobility solutions to a diverse corporate, commercial and residential customer base through four transportation subsidiaries operating in six states.
The EEOC enforces the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The Phoenix District Office covers Utah, Arizona, Colorado, part of New Mexico, and Wyoming. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.