Alleges Persistent, Facility-wide Racial Harassment, Biased Treatment and Retaliation
NEWARK, N.J. - Following an investigation and attempts at conciliation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today filed a lawsuit against Emery Worldwide Airlines, at its Priority Mail Processing Center in Kearny, N.J., for violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by discriminating against African-American employees in a wide range of employment matters, including job assignment, overtime, compensation, and disciplinary action. Filed in federal district court here, the suit further states that blacks suffered widespread racial harassment and that one white employee was retaliated against by Emery management for complaining about the alleged illegal practices.
Compounding the race-based differences in treatment, which the EEOC says adversely affected a class of 11 black employees, the agency's suit details acts of harassment such as displaying hangman's nooses, using racial slurs and insults, and vandalizing employee automobiles and company trucks driven by black employees. All of these acts were either condoned and/or participated in by managers at Emery. Company officials also retaliated against a number of the class members who exercised their right to contest the conduct, according to the lawsuit. One white worker was fired in reprisal for his opposition to the treatment of the black workers.
EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro emphasized EEOC's determination to battle this brand of offensive and illegal workplace behavior: "The rise of racial harassment at the workplace is appalling. We hope to send a clear message to all employers that EEOC stands ready to pursue all avenues to seek redress for the victims of discrimination. I encourage employers to seriously review their employment practices and rid their workplaces of the venom of egregious discrimination voluntarily rather than increase their liability risks."
The widespread discrimination described in the lawsuit has taken place since 1997, when Emery opened its Priority Mail Processing Center, EEOC says.
EEOC Regional Attorney Jacqueline McNair, said, "When top management at a facility in this case the Operations Manager and Dispatchers make clear their intention to treat African- American employees in a discriminatory manner, the effects of their prejudice spread throughout the workplace. It's a short step from differences in treatment to the sorts of outright hostility we see in this case. The employer allowed race discrimination to escalate until the outrageous became the commonplace."
EEOC seeks to eliminate the discriminatory practices cited in the case and have Emery compensate the 12 named employees for their monetary losses and the emotional pain and humiliation they experienced. The Civil Rights Act of 1991, which amended Title VII, provides that every victim of intentional discrimination may recover applicable compensatory and punitive damages in an amount that grows with the size of the employer up to a maximum of $300,000 for an employer with more than 500 employees, such as Emery.
In addition of enforcing sections of the 1991 Civil Rights Act and Title VII, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, sex, color, religion, or national origin, the EEOC enforces Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability; the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits sex-based wage discrimination; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; and prohibitions against discrimination affecting persons with disabilities in the federal government. Coverage generally includes private employers with 15 or more employees as well as federal, state, and local governments, employment agencies and labor organizations. Further information about the Commission is available on the agency's Web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on July 3, 2001.
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