American Piping Inspection Sued by EEOC for Racial Harassment and Retaliation

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Inspection Services Company Subjected Black Employee to a Racially Hostile Work Environment, Then Fired Him for Complaining, Federal Agency Says

HOUSTON – American Piping Inspection, Inc. (API), an Oklahoma-based oil and gas inspection services company doing business in Texas, violated federal law when its supervisors created and condoned a hostile work environment for an African American employee and retaliated against him for complaining about the harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on September 30, 2021.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a supervisor at API’s Midland facility began harassing the employee on his first day at work and the conduct continued throughout his employment. The supervisor referred to him and other black workers by a racial slur. The supervisor would also openly make racially offensive remarks he called “jokes” in the presence of employees under his supervision.

Offended, the employee told the supervisor to stop engaging in the offensive conduct, and when he did not, the employee complained to API’s vice-president. However, the supervisor continued making racial comments, often while mocking the employee in front of his peers for being offended. Following a gathering at which the supervisor and other employees were present, the supervisor made other racist jokes while looking directly at the employee and using his hand to pretend to shoot a gun at him. Feeling threatened, the employee again complained to API’s vice-president. Shortly thereafter, API supervisors began to scrutinize and discipline the employee more harshly than his white colleagues and ultimately fired him about a month later.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Civil Action No. 4:21-cv-03187) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks backpay, compensatory and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent any future discrimination in the workplace.

Rayford Irvin, director of the EEOC’s Houston District Office, said “Employers have a legal duty to take prompt corrective action if such race-based conduct arises in a workplace. Employers should ensure supervisors are held accountable and are properly trained to handle complaints of harassment.”

“Using racial epithets and other racially insulting language has no place in the American workplace. It is the employer’s responsibility to providing their employees workplaces free of racial discrimination,” said Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available 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.

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