Racial discrimination is still a grim reality. Just ask Conective Energy, which has settled a suit filed by the EEOC for $1.65 million. Even in our super-modernized, uber-fast, and always-accessible culture, race-based discrimination has managed to stand its ground despite the changed landscape around it. The Conectiv case is a discouraging testament to this often invisible fact.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed the suit on behalf of four African-American workers against Conectiv and three subcontractors. The claimants worked at the now-defunct Bethlehem Steel site in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Connective was the contractor building a gas-fired power plant at the site.
The claims of race discrimination are disturbing. The workers alleged that they were subjected to racially derogatory comments such as “black men can’t read or write” and “I think everyone should own one.” But the harassment didn’t stop with workplace commentary. There was graffiti on the site that included “I love the Ku Klux Klan” and “if u not white u not right.” And, in the ultimate display of racial animus, a noose, made of heavy rope, was hung from a beam above on the of the men’s work area. The noose was not removed for at least 10 days, according to the Complaint.
Conectiv will carry the heaviest payment in the settlement. It is charged with a $750,000 tab, while the other three defendant-subcontractors, will pay $450,000, $250,000, and $200,000 each. As is standard (and non-negotiable) in settling with the EEOC, the defendants must Revise and edit their anti-discrimination policies, provide anti-discrimination training, and post a notice at all job sites setting forth the basis for the suit and subsequent settlement. The consent decree also provides that it does not constitute an admission of any wrongdoing by any defendant.
Racial harassment cases at the EEOC have surged since the early 1990s from 3,075 in Fiscal Year 1991 to nearly 7,000 in FY 2007. In addition to investigating and voluntarily resolving tens of thousands of race discrimination cases out of court, the EEOC has sued more than three dozen employers this decade in racial harassment cases involving nooses.
Terrence Cook served as the Supervising Trial Attorney and Mary M. Tiernan as Program Analyst on behalf of the EEOC.
EEOC’s Press Release, May 5, 2008
As usual, Mark Toth, at the Manpower Employment Blog is on top of the latest headlines.