Methadone Clinic Company Subjected Black Employees to Racially Hostile Work Environment, Federal Agency Charged
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Treatment Centers, LLC, doing business as Lexington Treatment Associates, a Delaware-based limited liability company that owns and operates methadone clinics in North Carolina, will pay a total of $110,000 and provide other relief to settle a racial harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the company violated federal law when it subjected three black employees at its Lexington, N.C., facility to a racially hostile work environment.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, from February 2017 to at least July 2018, Treatment Centers subjected former Substance Abuse Counselor Allen Parson and two other African American employees, Marquita Williams and LaFonda Bruinton, to a racially hostile work environment. The EEOC alleged that the employees were repeatedly and openly subjected to racial slurs by several clients of the facility. The EEOC further charged that Treatment Centers maintained a practice of making race-based counselor assignments to accommodate white clients' racial preferences not to be assigned to black counselors. The agency charged that the race-based assignments contributed to the hostile work environment that existed for black employees.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, including racial harassment.
Prior to the EEOC initiating its lawsuit, which was filed contemporaneously with a proposed consent decree resolving the EEOC's claims, the EEOC and Treatment Centers reached a resolution of the claims. The EEOC's complaint and proposed consent decree were filed today in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Treatment Centers, LLC d/b/a Lexington Treatment Associates, Civil Action No.1:19-cv-00933).
In addition to providing monetary relief to claimants Parson, Williams and Bruinton, Treatment Centers entered a three-year consent decree mandating that the company notify clients that they may be suspended or dismissed from the methadone treatment program for using racially offensive language. The company will also notify clients that Treatment Centers will not honor clients' racial preferences for staff assignments. The decree further requires the company to develop and implement a policy prohibiting racial harassment and to conduct annual training for employees and management on Title VII's prohibition against workplace harassment. The decree further requires that Treatment Centers comply with posting and reporting requirements, and that its chief executive officer to distribute a letter notifying employees that any employee who engages in racially offensive conduct shall be subject to discipline, including possible termination.
"Employers must take appropriate action to stop their employees, as well as third parties, from using racial slurs in the workplace," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "The EEOC takes a company's failure to take appropriate action to stop racial slurs and racially offensive conduct very seriously and will prosecute cases where this kind of abuse occurs."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.