The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Black Janitor Was Fired Because of Race, Federal Agency Charged

EL PASO, Texas – ABM Janitorial Services-South Central, Inc. has agreed to pay $46,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. EP-08-CA-0220, filed in the El Paso Division of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas), ABM Janitorial Services-South Central, Inc. violated federal law when it fired janitor Melvin Kennebrew because he is African American.

During the course of this lawsuit, the EEOC obtained a sworn affidavit from a witness who heard a supervisor express discriminatory intentions toward Kennebrew. This co-worker observed the supervisor’s harsh discriminatory use of profanity and the “N-word” when he described all blacks as “lazy.” According to the witness, the supervisor went on to say he would “get rid” of Kennebrew, assuming that because Kennebrew is African American, he must have been the one to tamper with a time clock.

Race discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

“The defendant in this case denies having engaged in unlawful discrimination,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Tisha Dominguez. “However, it is important for all employers to be aware of the ability of a ‘bad apple’ to subject a company to liability, particularly if that ‘bad apple’ is a supervisor. If a supervisor fires an employee because of race, it is the company, rather than the supervisor, which must pay for that illegal conduct.”

In addition to agreeing to pay Kennebrew $46,000, ABM Janitorial Services-South Central, Inc. has also agreed to comply with Title VII’s prohibition against race discrimination, to post a notice regarding its intention not to discriminate against any employee, and to train its El Paso supervisors and managers on discrimination law.

EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Canino said, “The key to success in pursuing this case was, fortunately, the testimony of a non-black co-worker who witnessed the events that may had otherwise been forever unknown. The EEOC is always glad to have witnesses who will come forward and provide candid evidence in furtherance of the public interest in situations like this.”

In FY 2008, the EEOC received 33,937 charges alleging race discrimination, representing approximately 35 percent of all charges for that year. Race bias charges have always comprised the most numerous type of workplace discrimination charges.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at

This page was last modified on July 24, 2009.

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