RockTenn Services Pays $500,000 to Settle EEOC Race Harassment Suit

by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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Racist  Graffiti and Noose Found at Worksite and Employer Ignored Complaints, Federal  Agency Charged

DALLAS - RockTenn Services Company, Inc. an Atlanta-based  manufacturing company, will pay $500,000 to 14 employees and provide other  significant relief to settle a racially hostile environment lawsuit brought by  the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency  announced today.  The consent decree  settling the suit, signed today by U.S. Federal District Judge Jane Boyle,  resolves the EEOC's claims against RockTenn.   The EEOC charged RockTenn with subjecting a class of African-American employees to race discrimination. 

According to the EEOC's suit, Case No. 3:10-cv-01960 in U.S.  District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, a class of  African-American employees were subjected to violent, racist graffiti, including  "KKK," swastikas, Confederate flags, "white power" and other racist  terms, including "die, n----r, die."   RockTenn employees also saw hangman's nooses displayed at its Dallas paper  mill.  Several employees were referred to  by racist slurs including "n----r."  Michael Scott, who filed a discrimination  charge with the EEOC, was a called a "n----r" by his supervisor.  Scott later discovered a noose at his work station.  The EEOC complained that RockTenn officials repeatedly  ignored the complaints of racist graffiti even after it was reported to  management on multiple occasions, including at monthly labor-management  meetings.

The EEOC was set to go to trial on this case before U.S. District  Court for the Northern District of Texas on Dec. 3.  In addition to presenting testimony from the  class of 14 black employees, the EEOC expected to call two white employees of  RockTenn to testify about numerous instances of racist graffiti and racial  comments by managers made at the paper mill.

"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," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Joel  Clark.  "Terms like 'KKK' evoke violent  and threatening attitudes towards African-Americans.  RockTenn should have immediately responded to  the reports of racist graffiti instead of permitting their employees to work in  an atmosphere full of these menacing, racist taunts."

Race discrimination  in the workplace, including race harassment, violates Title  VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The  EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement  through its conciliation process. 

Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC's Dallas  District Office, said, "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.  The EEOC will  continue to aggressively pursue employers that violate their workers' rights."

The two-year consent decree settling the case provides for  an injunction against RockTenn that prohibits the company from further discriminating  against any employee or harassing any employee on the basis of race.  RockTenn will pay $500,000 in monetary relief  and will conduct annual anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training.  As part of the decree, RockTenn also agreed to  implement an anti-graffiti policy, which requires the company to conduct  weekly monitoring of its facilities and to also discipline any employee found  to have created graffiti.

Janet V. Elizondo, director of the EEOC's Dallas District Office, said, "This  resolution is a tremendous step forward in the EEOC's continuing  effort to put an end to such intolerable, racially offensive working  environments.  Employers must be more  vigilant and make clear that race discrimination has no place in the  workplace."

  According  to company information, Rock-Tenn is one of North America's leading  manufacturers of paperboard, containerboard and consumer and corrugated  packaging.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment  discrimination.  Further information  about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) | Attorney Advertising

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