Company Subjected Black Employee to Racial Harassment, Including Noose Displays, Then Fired Him for Complaining, Federal Agency Charged
JACKSON, Miss. - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today that it settled, for $28,000 and other relief, a race discrimination lawsuit against Performance Drilling Company LLC. Brandon, Miss.-based Performance Drilling provides land drilling services for natural gas and oil exploration and production companies in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida and East Texas. Prior to settlement, Performance Drilling filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The EEOC's lawsuit alleged that Performance Drilling subjected a black employee to racial harassment, including racial taunts and insults, and then terminated him in retaliation for his opposition to the misconduct. The harassment included the display of a noose, and the use of racially derogatory terms by a supervisor. At the time, the victim, Darius Swington, was the only African-American employee at the worksite.
Race discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (No. 3:10-CV-00540) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Southern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The settlement, memorialized in a two-year consent decree issued by the court on Sept. 26, includes $28,000 in monetary relief for Swington. The decree requires Performance Drilling to implement new policies and practices designed to prevent harassment, conduct employee training on anti-discrimination laws, and post notices at the work site. For the decree's two-year period, Performance Drilling is also required to provide reports to the EEOC on complaints of race discrimination.
C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office, said, "The EEOC is poised to navigate through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process in order to bring to justice employers who allow the type of egregious misconduct to which this victim was subjected."
Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office, added, "Employers who allow their workplaces to be havens for racial harassment and antagonism are not meeting their obligations under federal law. When employers choose not to meet those obligations, the EEOC is prepared to pursue all appropriate means to hold them accountable."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC's Birmingham District covers Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.