Fencing Company's Mistreatment of Black Employee, Including Racial Slurs and Noose Display, Forced Him to Quit, Federal Agency Charged
CHICAGO - A Melrose Park, Ill., fencing company will pay $25,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race harassment case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, African American employee Arri Samuels's coworkers, including the warehouse manager, verbally harassed Samuels based on his race by calling him racial slurs and making offensive comments about black people in his presence. When Samuels complained, no action was taken and the treatment continued.
Ultimately, the EEOC said, Samuels discovered a noose hanging in the warehouse. Two coworkers pulled Samuels toward the noose, telling him to put his head in it. Although Samuels did not report the noose, the warehouse manager saw the noose and laughed. Under Driven Fence's own policies, the warehouse manager was duty-bound to report the harassment, but did not. A few weeks after the noose incident, Samuels quit his job, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago (EEOC v. Driven Fence, Inc., Civil Action No. 17 C 6817), after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.
The judge ruled in EEOC's favor on summary judgment and allowed Samuels's constructive discharge to proceed toward a potential trial. It agreed that a jury could reasonably conclude that the warehouse manager had the duty to report the harassment of Samuels. The parties agreed to settle the matter after the ruling.
The two-year consent decree settling the suit, agreed to by the parties and entered by the court, requires that Driven Fence pay $25,000 to the former employee and that the company strengthen its discrimination complaint procedure and develop and implement investigation procedures. The decree also mandates training of employees and reporting to the EEOC any future complaints of race harassment.
"This case illustrates the importance of having a clear policy so employees know whom to contact when they experience harassment and what the company will do to resolve the problem," said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney in the EEOC's Chicago District Office.
EEOC Chicago District Director Julie Bowman added, "If an employee does not know where to turn for help, he may feel he has no choice but to quit, which deprives the employer of a valued employee and deprives the employee of his livelihood. Everyone loses."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. This case was litigated by EEOC Trial Attorneys Jeanne Szromba and Bradley Fiorito.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.