Workers Fired for Protesting Hostile Environment, Federal Agency Charged
DENVER - A Michigan-based energy company and its Wyoming subsidiary violated federal law against race and national origin harassment and retaliation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed yesterday. The EEOC charged that Dart Energy Corp., headquartered in Mason, Mich., and its subsidiary J&R Well Services, LLC, which operates an oil and gas well service business in Wyoming, created a hostile work environment for a group of black, Hispanic and Native American employees. Further, the EEOC said, the companies fired some of these employees because of their race/national origin and/or because they complained about the discrimination.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, an area manager and a truck supervisor at the Edgerton, Wyo., location used racist and ethnic slurs and made offensive racial and ethnic comments to black, Hispanic and Native American workers. The EEOC also alleged that minority workers were disciplined more harshly than their white counterparts and that black, Hispanic and Native American workers were given unfavorable job assignments. Employees who dared to complain internally were allegedly told to do their jobs and quit complaining. Within weeks of filing discrimination charges, several employees were disciplined, demoted, laid off, or terminated, the EEOC said.
The EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Dart Energy Corp. et al., Case No. 13-cv-00198-NDF) in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief prohibiting further discrimination by the employer and mandating corrective action.
"The EEOC is committed to enforcing our nation's laws preventing race and national origin discrimination in employment," said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill, whose jurisdiction includes Wyoming. "When a company retaliates against discrimination victims for complaining, it is only compounding the problem, and this agency is not afraid to take a company to court to rectify it."
EEOC Denver Field Office Director Nancy Sienko added, "Retaliation in particular is a priority for the EEOC under the agency's Strategic Enforcement Plan. As a law enforcement agency, we cannot fulfill our mission unless employees are free to file discrimination charges and complain about harassment without fear of losing their jobs."
Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede the EEOC's investigative or enforcement efforts, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, Labor Standards partnered with the EEOC by taking the charges and beginning the investigation, which was then completed by the EEOC. The EEOC partners with state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs), such as the Wyoming FEPA, in order to enforce employment discrimination laws.
The EEOC enforces the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.