Louisiana Dredging Company Fired Black Worker for Protesting Racism, Federal Agency Charged
NEW ORLEANS -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that it has sued Mike Hooks, Inc. for racial discrimination, harassment and retaliatory discharge. Mike Hooks is a civil engineering, construction and dredging company headquartered in Westlake, La., with a work force of about 275 employees.
The EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 2:09-cv-00477, filed March 25, 2009) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lake Charles Division, charged that an African American employee was accosted and called a “n----r” by a white employee. The black employee immediately complained to management about the incident, but little action was taken.
Rather than addressing the employee’s racial harassment complaint, the EEOC said, management fired both employees. The EEOC said that Mike Hooks re-hired the white employee shortly after his firing, even though he had violated company policy. Mike Hooks did not extend the same opportunity to the black employee; he was never re-hired nor told he was eligible for re-hire.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to treat an employee less favorably based on race and to retaliate against someone who complains about race discrimination. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in employment discrimination, harassment and retaliation, as well as back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.
“Rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to address the offensive conduct reported by one of its employees, Mike Hooks made a bad situation worse by illegally punishing the black employee, firing him, and thus compounding its own liability,” said Keith T. Hill, director of the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office.
Jim Sacher, the EEOC's regional attorney in Houston, added, “The EEOC will vigorously enforce federal law by prosecuting companies that fail to discipline employees and managers who engage in race-based discrimination and that retaliate against employees who complain of the discrimination. Employers who do not meaningfully investigate complaints of this type should expect to be held liable to the full extent of the law.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on March 25, 2009.
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