Murex Petroleum Corp. to Pay $50,000 to Settle EEOC Racial Harassment Lawsuit

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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Oil and Gas Company Subjected Employee to Racial Harassment, Federal Agency Charged

MINNEAPOLIS - A Texas-based oil and gas company operating in Tioga, N.D., will pay $50,000 and furnish other relief 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 Murex Petroleum Corp. violated federal law when it subjected an African-American employee to a hostile work environment based on his race.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Derrick Jenkins worked for Murex Petroleum Corp. from April to September 2014 as a roustabout at its Tioga facility. During Jenkins' employment, he was subjected to racial harassment by his white coworkers. The harassment included the white coworkers calling Jenkins racial slurs such as "spook," "spade" and "Buckwheat." The coworkers also made racially derogatory comments including using the racially offensive term "n----r-rigged," the EEOC said. The harassment was witnessed by Jenkins' supervisor, but no action was taken to stop it. According to the EEOC's lawsuit, another African-American employee  complained to a high-level executive at the company, but, again, no action was taken to stop or prevent the harassment.

Such alleged conduct 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. Murex Petroleum Corp., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00169-CSM) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles S. Miller, Jr. signed the order entering the consent decree settling the suit on November 19, 2018. The decree provides for $50,000 in monetary relief to Jenkins. It also requires Murex to revise its harassment policy to outline its procedure for reporting complaints, and train management and employees on Title VII's provisions prohibiting race discrimination and racial harassment. Finally, the company must report complaints of racial harassment to the EEOC during the decree's three-year term.

"Employers must recognize the importance of acting promptly to address complaints of racial harassment," said Julianne Bowman, district director for the EEOC's Chicago District. "Racial slurs cannot be allowed to go unchecked in the workplace, and such behavior must be stopped immediately when the employer has knowledge of such misconduct."

Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago District, added, "The EEOC will continue to combat racial harassment and discrimination. We are pleased with the company's quick action to resolve this lawsuit and make changes to address the problem of race discrimination in the workplace."

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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