Racist Graffiti and Noose Found at Worksite and Employer Ignored Complaints, Federal Agency Charged
DALLAS - RockTenn Services Company, Inc. an Atlanta-based manufacturing company, will pay $500,000 to 14 employees and provide other significant relief to settle a racially hostile environment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The consent decree settling the suit, signed today by U.S. Federal District Judge Jane Boyle, resolves the EEOC's claims against RockTenn. The EEOC charged RockTenn with subjecting a class of African-American employees to race discrimination.
According to the EEOC's suit, Case No. 3:10-cv-01960 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, a class of African-American employees were subjected to violent, racist graffiti, including "KKK," swastikas, Confederate flags, "white power" and other racist terms, including "die, n----r, die." RockTenn employees also saw hangman's nooses displayed at its Dallas paper mill. Several employees were referred to by racist slurs including "n----r." Michael Scott, who filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC, was a called a "n----r" by his supervisor. Scott later discovered a noose at his work station. The EEOC complained that RockTenn officials repeatedly ignored the complaints of racist graffiti even after it was reported to management on multiple occasions, including at monthly labor-management meetings.
The EEOC was set to go to trial on this case before U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on Dec. 3. In addition to presenting testimony from the class of 14 black employees, the EEOC expected to call two white employees of RockTenn to testify about numerous instances of racist graffiti and racial comments by managers made at the paper mill.
"Racism in any form is bad enough, but racist graffiti that included Confederate flags and death wishes accompanied by vile racist epithets go far beyond the pale even of prejudice," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Joel Clark. "Terms like 'KKK' evoke violent and threatening attitudes towards African-Americans. RockTenn should have immediately responded to the reports of racist graffiti instead of permitting their employees to work in an atmosphere full of these menacing, racist taunts."
Race discrimination in the workplace, including race harassment, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC's Dallas District Office, said, "This case demonstrates racism at its most hateful level. The violations in this case are especially odious in light of the multiple reports of racist graffiti made by numerous employees. The EEOC will continue to aggressively pursue employers that violate their workers' rights."
The two-year consent decree settling the case provides for an injunction against RockTenn that prohibits the company from further discriminating against any employee or harassing any employee on the basis of race. RockTenn will pay $500,000 in monetary relief and will conduct annual anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training. As part of the decree, RockTenn also agreed to implement an anti-graffiti policy, which requires the company to conduct weekly monitoring of its facilities and to also discipline any employee found to have created graffiti.
Janet V. Elizondo, director of the EEOC's Dallas District Office, said, "This resolution is a tremendous step forward in the EEOC's continuing effort to put an end to such intolerable, racially offensive working environments. Employers must be more vigilant and make clear that race discrimination has no place in the workplace."
According to company information, Rock-Tenn is one of North America's leading manufacturers of paperboard, containerboard and consumer and corrugated packaging.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov