African American Deckhand Subjected to Racial Slurs and Noose by Co-Worker, Federal Agency Charges
NEW ORLEANS - American River Transportation Company (ARTCO) unlawfully allowed its workplace to be permeated with offensive racial slurs and conduct without taking corrective action, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit it filed on Sept. 26.
According to the EEOC's suit, the affected employee began working for ARTCO in September 2016 as a deckhand on one of its vessels. A white ARTCO employee regularly used racial epithets, as did employees of another vessel who often worked with ARTCO employees. The deckhand asked the individuals to stop, but to no avail. Even the captain was unresponsive when the deckhand complained to him, the EEOC said. In June 2017, the deckhand and another African American co-worker witnessed a white employee drop a rope, which had been fashioned into a noose, near the deck where they were working. The deckhand immediately took the noose to the captain, who took no action. Despite complaining to higher-level managers, ARTCO failed to take any corrective action, the EEOC said.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits racial discrimination, which includes racially hostile work environments. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, New Orleans Division (Civil Action No. 2:19-cv-12833) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting ARTCO from engaging in future race discrimination and harassment, an award of compensatory and punitive damages for the affected employee, and any other relief the court deems proper.
"The work environment the employee describes is deeply offensive," said Keith Hill, director of the New Orleans Field Office of the EEOC. "Employers have a responsibility to take swift and effective action to eliminate the use of racial slurs and similar misconduct from the workplace, whether engaged in by its own workers or others on their premises."
Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC's Houston Office, added, "Employees have an absolute right under Title VII to work in an environment free from racial slurs and all types of racially offensive conduct."
The New Orleans Field Office of the EEOC is located at 500 Poydras Street, Suite 809 in New Orleans, LA.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC and the laws it enforces is available on the agency's website at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.