Employer Racially Harassed Black Employee and Retaliated Against Him for Complaining, Federal Agency Charges
CHEYENNE, WY– Skils’kin, a non-profit focused on disabilities and employment that operates in Washington, Montana, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, violated federal law by subjecting an African American employee, to race discrimination and retaliation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC, Skils’kin subjected Bryan Wheels to a hostile work environment based on his race, retaliated against him for complaining about race discrimination while working on a crew at Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., and instead fired him due to his complaints.
Wheels, the only African American employee on the Skils’kin grounds crew, was called various racial slurs by Skils’kin employees. When Wheels complained about the racially offensive statements, Skils’kin assigned him to work directly with the coworker and supervisor who were harassing him. Skils’kin continued to ignore Wheels’ complaints and then fired him despite his multiple years of service while retaining a white employee hired only three months earlier.
Such alleged behavior violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from race discrimination, including harassment, and retaliation in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Skils’kin, Civil Action No.: 21-CV-185-NDF) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief for Mr. Wheels, including backpay, compensatory, and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief against the company to prevent racial harassment and retaliation for protected activity in the workplace in the future.
“Title VII protects employees of all races and guarantees them the right to work in an environment that is free from racial harassment,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Phoenix District. “When an employer learns about race-based harassment in the workplace, it must take prompt action designed to stop the behavior. An employer who fails to do so violates federal law.”
Amy Burkholder, the field director of the EEOC’s Denver Field Office, said, “All employees deserve and should expect a workplace free of racial harassment and retaliation.”
The EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque).
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.