SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Paper products manufacturers Schwarz Partners LP and Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) violated federal law by tolerating racial harassment of two African American workers at a manufacturing plant located in McClellan, Calif., the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.
According to EEOC’s suit, co-workers and a shift supervisor commonly used racial slurs and taunts, even broadcasting these phrases over the plant’s radio system. The African American workers also faced graffiti of swastikas and a confederate flag scribbled on company property with the phrase, “Long Live the Confederacy.” The company failed to act even after one employee reported that his white coworker had dangled a makeshift noose and asked him whether he thought the noose “would hold.”
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits harassment due to race and requires employers to take prompt action to investigate and stop the misconduct after they receive notice of it. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Schwarz Partners LP, et al., Case No. 2:20-cv-01948-MCE-CKD) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.
“Federal civil rights law requires that employers take prompt and effective action to stop race-based harassment,” said EEOC San Francisco District Director William Tamayo. “When put on notice, an employer must take quick and reasonable steps to nip that kind of behavior in the bud before it takes root in the workplace culture.”
EEOC Trial Attorney James H. Baker added, “Employers cannot permit race-based slurs and nooses to infect workplaces. Workers who encounter such comments and treatment should know that the EEOC will fully investigate and litigate such workplace abuses.”
Originally named Northern Sheets, the manufacturing plant was owned and managed by Schwarz, a privately-held company based in Indianapolis with over 2,500 employees, then later sold to PCA (NYSE: PKG), a Fortune 500 company based in Illinois employing over 14,000 individuals at plants and offices around the country. One of the largest containerboard manufacturers in the U.S., the company reported over $7B in net sales in 2019.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.