Construction Company Fired Black Employee Because He Complained About Racial Harassment, Federal Agency Charged
BECKLEY, W.V. – A South Point, Ohio-based construction company condoned egregious racial harassment and illegally fired an employee who complained about the abusive treatment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
The EEOC charges in its lawsuit that Mike Enyart & Sons, Inc. subjected Mareo R. Allen, who is African-American, to a hostile work environment based on his race, when he worked for the company on a sewer line installation project in White Sulphur Springs, W.V. Co-workers and a foreman repeatedly used racially offensive slurs and epithets to Allen and other black persons, including “n----r,” “black boy” “and colored boy,” the EEOC said in its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of West Virginia, Civil Action No. 5:10-cv-0921. The EEOC alleges that the harassment also included threatening conduct such as cutting Allen’s belt with a knife while Allen was wearing it and showing Allen a swastika that had been spray-painted onto company equipment.
The company failed to take effective action to stop the pervasive harassment, the EEOC said. Instead, a company official told Allen that he could only remain employed if he agreed not to pursue his discrimination claims. When Allen refused to withdraw them, the company terminated him in retaliation for his opposition to the racial harassment, the EEOC charged in its lawsuit.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment based on race. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who opposes racial harassment or discrimination. The EEOC attempted to reach a voluntary settlement before filing suit.
“It is appalling that the company not only condoned the vile and offensive racial epithets made to Mr. Allen, but actually warned him that he had to drop his complaints about the racial harassment in order to keep his job,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. “No employee should have to endure racial slurs and threatening behavior as a condition of remaining employed.”
In Fiscal Year 2009, the EEOC received 33,579 charge filings alleging race-based discrimination. Historically, race discrimination has accounted for the most frequent type of charge filing with EEOC offices nationwide. In Fiscal Year 2009, the number of retaliation charges filed with the EEOC surged to a record-high level of 33,613.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.