EEOC Resolves Class Case Involving Nooses, Racial Slurs and Graffiti at Airport Facility
DALLAS - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the settlement of a race and national origin harassment lawsuit for $1.9 million and significant remedial relief against Allied Aviation Services, Inc. on behalf of African American and Hispanic workers who were the targets of racial slurs, graffiti, cartoons, and hangman’s nooses at a facility in the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. The company identifies itself at the “largest American domestically owned provider of fueling services to the commercial aviation industry.”
The EEOC charged in the case that African American and Hispanic employees were subjected to a racially hostile work environment consisting of verbal and other abuse by their co-workers on a daily basis. Racial graffiti, including swastikas and the N-word, were commonplace and in plain sight in employee restrooms, on fuel tanks, and written on aircraft. An offensive cartoon belittling a Hispanic worker was placed under glass on a manager's desk for months. Additionally, there was a so-called “hit list” targeting blacks as well as references to the “back of the bus” and “going back to Africa.” Also, a white employee married to an African American was subjected to racial abuse.
“It is appalling that racial harassment remains a persistent problem at some job sites across the country in the 21st century, more than 40 years after passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act,” said EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp. “Employers must be more vigilant and make clear that race discrimination, whether verbal or behavioral, has no place in the contemporary workplace.”
In addition to the $1.9 million in damages to be divided among 15 class members, the three-year consent decree resolving the case (EEOC v. Allied Aviation, Civil Action No. 3:05-CV-1379L, N.D. of Texas, Dallas Division) includes injunctive relief requiring diversity training for all of Allied Aviation’s employees in U.S. facilities and the posting of a notice at all facilities.
“This settlement sends an important message to the aviation industry that racial graffiti and slurs are not appropriate in the workplace, whether in an office building or out on the tarmac,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino of the Dallas District Office.
The group of 15 employees -- including Eric Mitchel, a former football player for the Oklahoma Sooners and the Dallas Cowboys -- was represented by the EEOC, the New York firm of Valli, Kane and Vagnini LLP, and the Austin firm of DiNovo, Price & Ellwanger LLP. The suit was filed under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
According to its web site, www.alliedaviation.com, the company, a division of the New York-based Allied Aviation Holdings, Inc., provides into-plane fueling services as well as fuel facility maintenance and operation at 24 major airports in the United States, Canada and Latin America. While Allied Aviation Services reported having about 250 employees at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, where the harassment and discrimination involving this class of aggrieved individuals took place, it has more than 3,000 employees throughout its entire organization.
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Suzanne M. Anderson noted that the settlement is the largest race and national origin discrimination case ever resolved by the Dallas District Office. “What made this case so repulsive was not just the egregious conduct against blacks and Hispanics by their co-workers, but also management’s acquiescence to the harassment. It is incumbent upon employers to act swiftly in addressing and correcting any harassment immediately, in accordance with the law.”
The EEOC has observed a surge of racial harassment cases over the past two decades, some of which involve hangman’s nooses and verbal threats of lynching. Racial harassment charge filings with EEOC offices across the country have more than doubled from 3,075 in Fiscal Year 1991 to nearly 7,000 in FY 2007. In addition to investigating and voluntarily resolving tens of thousands of race discrimination cases out of court, the EEOC has sued more than three dozen employers this decade in racial harassment cases involving nooses.
On Feb. 28, 2007, Chair Earp launched the Commission’s E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism And Colorism from Employment), a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign focusing on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace. Further information about the E-RACE Initiative is available on the EEOC’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/initatives/e-race/index.html.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov