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PRESS RELEASE
9-19-16

EEOC Sues the Laquila Group for Race Harassment and Retaliation

Supervisor Used Racist Slurs, Called Black Employees 'Monkeys' and 'Gorillas,' Then Fired Employee Who Complained, Federal Agency Charges

BROOKLYN, N.Y. - The Laquila Group, Inc., a prominent New York City excavation and construction company, violated federal law when a supervisor racially harassed African-American employees and then fired one of them after he complained about the harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to EEOC's suit, Laquila since 2013 subjected Walter Franks and other black employees to a race-based hostile work environment. The mistreatment included the regular, open use of racial slurs by a Laquila supervisor, such as "n-----r," "monkey," "Godzilla" and "gorilla." Additionally, this supervisor called Franks "Green Mile," referencing the physically imposing and mentally challenged character from the movie of that title.

EEOC charged that despite the openness of the harassment and complaints to management by Franks and other black employees, Laquila failed to stop it. Instead, a few days after Franks complained to Laquila's project superintendent and to his union about his supervisor's harassment, the supervisor told Franks that he was being laid off. And when notifying Franks about his "layoff," the supervisor expressly mentioned Franks's complaints about the racial harassment, showing Laquila's retaliatory motive for Franks' termination.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, as well as retaliation for opposing or reporting discrimination. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. The Laquila Group, Inc., Civil Action No.1:16-cv-05194) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

"Racial harassment isn't just deplorable, it's illegal," said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. "Federal law demands that when a company learns that its supervisor has been directing racial slurs toward its employees, such harassment must be addressed and remedied immediately. This was not done by Laquila, and so EEOC had to take action to right these wrongs."

EEOC New York District Acting Director Judy Keenan added, "Walter Franks's efforts to stop the racial slurs should have resulted in corrective action by Laquila, not being fired. EEOC will vigorously fight racial harassment and retaliation against those brave enough to speak out against it."

EEOC's New York District Office oversees New York, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov.