Employer Permitted Racist Slurs and Graffiti, Then Fired Employees Who Complained
BUFFALO, N.Y. – A Buffalo provider of metal coating violated federal law when it permitted race-based harassment of black employees by supervisors and co-workers, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to EEOC’s complaint, Frontier Hot-Dip Galvanizing, Inc. has, since at least 2011, subjected its black employees, including of Johnny Mitchell, Jean Basquin and others, to a race-based hostile work environment. The mistreatment included the regular and open use of slurs such as “n—-r,” “monkey” and “coon,” as well racist graffiti in common areas, featuring phrases such as “n—–s must die.” Frontier’s superintendent also harassed Basquin based on his Haitian national origin, shouting, “We don’t work with terrorists! Only American citizens work here!”
EEOC charged that despite the visibility of the harassment and the numerous complaints to management by Mitchell and other black employees, Frontier Hot-Dip failed to stop it and instead threatened complaining employees with retaliatory termination. When Mitchell stood up to a co-worker who pursued him while calling him “n—–r” and “f—-t,” Frontier’s superintendent confronted Mitchell with a stick and fired him. Further, Basquin was fired in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge with EEOC concerning the harassment to which he was subjected.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race or national origin, as well as retaliation for opposing or reporting discrimination. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York (EEOC v. Frontier Hot-Dip Galvanizing, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:16-cv-00691) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.
“This lawsuit sends a clear message that Title VII’s prohibition against racial harassment in the workplace will be vigorously enforced by EEOC,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for EEOC’s New York District Office. “No one should have to face this kind of horrific harassment.”
“Employees who file charges of discrimination are heroes who allow EEOC to investigate and eradicate discrimination from their workplaces,” added EEOC’s New York acting district director, Judy Keenan, “Title VII also prohibits employer retaliation, and EEOC will continue to vigorously enforce that prohibition.”
EEOC’s New York District Office oversees New York, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. This case was investigated by the Buffalo Local Office of EEOC. Further information about EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov.