Black Mechanic Faced Slurs, Stereotypes and Retaliation, Says Federal Agency
SEATTLE -The largest producer of shellfish in the United States violated federal law when it permitted ongoing racial harassment and retaliatory discipline against a black maintenance mechanic, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.
EEOC found that from his first week at the Taylor Shellfish Company's Samish Bay Farm, Jeremy Daniels faced demeaning comments and stereotypes about his race and was regularly called variations of the "N word" as well as "spook" and "boy." The lawsuit also charges that his supervisor retaliated against Daniels by assigning him less desirable jobs, publicly screaming profanities at him and writing him up for insubordination. Despite being notified of incidents, Taylor management failed to take any action and simply told Daniels to just get thicker skin and "put his head down and do what he was told," so that he felt he had no choice but to quit in order to escape the harassment.
"My supervisor 'welcomed' me to the job with the information that I was the first black person to work at Taylor for a long time, and that his father used to run 'my kind' out of town," Daniels said. "In the military, when I traveled around the world for my country, I never encountered anyone who made me feel that I was less than them simply because of the color of my skin. But when I went to work for Taylor, I was constantly robbed of my dignity for simply being black."
Racial harassment and retaliation violate Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process, EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Taylor Shellfish Company, Inc., 2:16-CV-01517) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. EEOC seeks monetary damages for Daniels, as well as injunctive relief to remedy and prevent future harassment and retaliation in the workplace.
"The day that a worker is judged by race instead of work performance should be long behind us," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Teri Healy. "I hope the Commission's lawsuit sends a clear message that employers who turn a blind eye to racial discrimination will only multiply the problems besetting their workplace."
"Refusing to respond once informed of racial harassment is like a permission slip from management for both the original discrimination and ensuing retaliation. As EEOC's recent Report on Workplace Harassment points out, leadership and accountability are critical to creating a workplace culture that does not tolerate such conduct," said Nancy Sienko, Seattle Field Director for EEOC's San Francisco District.
Shelton, Wash - based Taylor Shellfish employs approximately 500 employees and operates hatchery and nursery facilities as well as restaurants and bars along the west coast of the United States and in British Columbia.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.