Oilfield Service Company Subjected Asian Employee to Abuse, Federal Agency Charged
MINNEAPOLIS - A Texas-based oilfield service company operating in Williston, N.D., will pay $39,900 to settle a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC's lawsuit charged that Cudd Energy Services violated civil rights law by subjecting an employee to a racially hostile work environment because of his race, Asian, and then firing him after he complained about it.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Alexis Villanueva worked for Cudd Energy Services at its Williston location from February to July 2013 as an equipment operator. Shortly after he began working, Villanueva, who is Asian, was racially harassed by his white supervisor. The racial harassment included the supervisor calling Villanueva "little Asian" and "Chow" based on the Asian character in the movie "Hangover." On one occasion, the supervisor physically assaulted Villanueva when he poured a bottle of water on Villanueva's head, grabbed his head, and pushed it down towards a table, the EEOC charged. Villanueva complained about the harassment to supervisors and reported the assault to the police. According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Villanueva was fired based on his race and in retaliation for his opposition to the racial harassment. The court denied Cudd's motion for summary judgment on the EEOC's racial harassment claim. The court granted Cudd summary judgment on the EEOC's termination and retaliation claims.
Racial harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from discrimination based on race, including racial harassment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Cudd Energy Services, Civil Action No. 4:15-cv-00037-LLP-ARS) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence L. Piersol signed the order entering the consent decree settling the suit on July 19, 2018. The decree provides for $39,900 in monetary relief to Villanueva. The decree also requires the company to train its management personnel on Title VII's prohibitions against racial harassment. Further, the decree requires Cudd to train its non-management employees on their rights under Title VII, including their right to file discrimination charges with the EEOC. Finally, the company must report complaints of racial harassment to the EEOC during the decree's three-year term.
"Racial harassment is unacceptable and illegal," said Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC's Chicago District. "This settlement will monitor the company's practices on racial harassment, and provide training to both management and non-management employees. The EEOC will keep fighting to eliminate such misconduct from the American workplace."
Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago District, said, "Racial harassment continues to be a problem in the workplace, and employers must recognize the importance of acting promptly to address complaints about this inexcusable conduct. Employers must respond appropriately and effectively to their employees' complaints and not ignore them."
The EEOC was represented in the case by Senior Trial Attorney Tina Burnside in the EEOC's Minneapolis Area Office.