Company Fired Employee for Complaining About Manager’s Racist Comments, Federal Agency Charged
HOUSTON – Conroe, Texas-based Maverick Tube Corporation will pay $175,000 to settle a retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit, filed in June 2007, (C.A. 4:07-cv-02033 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division), charged that in May 2005, Maverick Tube retaliated against Andra Williams by firing him after he reported to its president and chief operating officer the safety manager’s racially offensive comments.
The company investigated Williams’s complaint and, as a result, discharged the manager. But, less than a month after he reported the comments, Williams was fired after he was falsely accused of saying he would call the company’s president to report his supervisor if he was not permitted to have a requested vacation day. Before conducting any investigation into the allegation made against Williams, the regional human resources manager stated in an e-mail that Williams should be immediately fired. In that same e-mail, the HR manager reminded his readers that Williams had recently complained about the safety manager’s racial comments.
Retaliation for complaining about discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
The four-year consent decree settling the suit, signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen W. Smith, requires the company to pay $175,000 in monetary relief to Williams. Additionally, the decree requires annual mandatory training on Title VII for all of the company’s managers and employees at its Conroe facility. That training must include instruction regarding the illegality of retaliating against employees who complain about conduct which they believe to be discriminatory. The company must also post an anti-discrimination notice, provide monitoring reports to the EEOC and issue a disciplinary notice to the company’s regional human resources manager.
“Retaliation is an issue of special concern to the EEOC,” said Kathy D. Boutchee, the EEOC senior trial attorney in charge of the case. “Employees have the clear right to report employment practices which they believe are discriminatory without fear of retribution. This case should serve as a firm reminder to employers that it is unlawful to retaliate against an individual for exercising his statutory right to report, oppose or complain about discrimination or to file a charge of discrimination.”
Jim Sacher, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office, added, “When the EEOC brings suit, it does so to benefit the public at large. For that reason, the disciplining of an errant human resources manager, the inclusion of annual training for managers and employees, monitoring of future complaints of discrimination and retaliation and other injunctive relief are all equally important parts of the settlement.”
Maverick Tube Corporation is a subsidiary of Tenaris. According to its website, it is a leading supplier of tubes and related services for the energy industry. It has 24,000 employees.
Retaliation charges filed with the EEOC rose from 26,663 in Fiscal Year 2007 to 32,690 in FY 2008, and have nearly tripled in the last 15 years.
The EEOC enforces the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation. Additional information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s website at www.eeoc.gov.
Anyone who believes he or she has been subjected to discrimination or retaliation in the workplace is encouraged to contact the EEOC’s Houston District Office, which is located in downtown Houston at the Mickey Leland Federal Building at 1919 Smith Street. The phone number is 713-209-3372.