Transportation Company to Pay $40,000 to Settle EEOC Race Harassment Lawsuit

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Barge Company Employees Displayed Nooses in the Workplace, According to Lawsuit

NEW ORLEANS – American River Transportation Company (ARTCO), headquartered in Decatur, Ill., will pay a former employee $40,000 to resolve a racial harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. ARTCO provides river transportation services, including barges and a shipyard, to its parent company, Archer Daniels Midland, and to third-party clients.

According to the EEOC’s suit, filed in 2019, a Black deckhand was subjected to racial harassment because of his race when a co-worker used racial epithets and brought a rope fashioned into a noose aboard the vessel where they both worked. Despite early complaints to the ship’s captain about the verbal harassment, the abuse continued and ultimately resulted in the noose incident, the EEOC said. The harassment continued until the deckhand was able to transfer to another one of ARTCO’s vessels, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination because of race. The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 2:19-cv-12933) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana after first attempting to resolve the case through its conciliation process.

Under a two-year consent decree entered on May 17, ARTCO will pay the employee $40,000 in compensatory damages and will also conduct training regarding Title VII, review and update its policies, post a notice prohibiting discrimination, and provide regular reports to the EEOC.

“Title VII protects workers from racial harassment and companies must comply with the law,” stated Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office. “We will continue to bring lawsuits to enforce the law, especially in instances where there was egregious racial harassment in the workplace.”

Lloyd Van Oostenrijk, the trial attorney in charge of the case, added, “Employers must always take prompt remedial action when incidents of racial harassment are reported by employees. Such prompt action helps prevent more egregious instances of harassment from occurring or continuing.”

Anyone who believes he or she has been subjected to discriminatory employment practices is encouraged to contact the EEOC. Appointments to file a charge can be made via the Public Portal, available online at https://publicportal.eeoc.gov/Portal/Login.aspx. Employees of private employers must file a charge to the EEOC, and/or the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division or the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights, within 300 days after the discriminatory conduct.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

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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