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PRESS RELEASE
9-30-14

EEOC Sues Rhino Eastern for National Origin Discrimination and Retaliation

Mining Company Fired Foreman Because He Complained About Pervasive Harassment Based on His Polish Ancestry, Federal Agency Says

BECKLEY, W.V. - Mining company Rhino Eastern LLC violated federal law when it subjected a mine foreman to pervasive national origin discrimination and retaliated against him for his opposition to the harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

The EEOC says that supervisory and non-supervisory personnel regularly subjected Michael Jagodzinski to degrading and humiliating comments, taunts and slurs based on his Polish ancestry.   The harassment included calling Jagodzinski a "stupid Polack," a "dumb Polack," and other offensive names, displaying offensive graffiti about Jagodzinski on mine walls and elsewhere in the workplace, and taunting Jagodzinski with derogatory remarks about his national origin, the EEOC charged.

Despite Jagodzinksi's complaints about, and Rhino Eastern's knowledge of, the hostile work environment, the company failed to prevent or correct the harassment, the EEOC said.  Instead, the company retaliated against Jagodzinski by issuing a pretextual disciplinary action and then firing him. 

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination and harassment based on national origin.  Title VII also forbids employers from firing or otherwise disciplining an employee because he or she complained about discriminatory conduct.  The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Rhino Energy WV LLC d/b/a Rhino Eastern LLC, Civil Action No 5:14-cv-26250) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Beckley Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. 

"No employee should be subjected to degrading and humiliating harassment in order to earn a living," said Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr.  "The EEOC will take action when employers fail to protect employees from a hostile work environment or retaliate against those who oppose it." 

Debra M. Lawrence, regional attorney of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office, said, "As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title VII this year, it is unfortunate that some employers still permit pervasive national origin harassment to continue unchecked in the workplace and punish an employee who complains about the unlawful misconduct instead of taking action against the wrongdoers."

The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.   The legal staff of the Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination.  Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.