The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Black Employees Were Subjected to a Hostile Work Environment, Federal Agency Charges

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Ralph Jones Sheet Metal, Inc. violated federal law by subjecting African American employees to a hostile work environment because of their race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.

The EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No.2:09-cv-02636, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division) alleges that William Henson, who worked as forklift and crane operator for Ralph Jones Sheet Metal, and other black employees were subjected to racially offensive comments made by a white supervisor and other employees.

The EEOC’s lawsuit asserts that Henson’s supervisor regularly referred to him and other African American employees with the N-word and used other derogatory racial slurs. In addition, racial graffiti were on display in common areas and on company equipment.

The alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. This lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction prohibiting this discrimination in the future, and to order Ralph Jones Sheet Metal to pay William Henson and other African American employees compensatory damages for emotional and psychological harm, as well as punitive damages.

“Employees should not have to endure a racially hostile work environment, as it is a violation of federal law,” Katharine W. Kores, director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office said. “It is appalling that racial harassment and the use of racial slurs remain so pervasive in today’s workplace. The EEOC will continue to forcefully fight against this misconduct.”

Ralph Jones Sheet Metal is a Tennessee corporation that custom fabricates sheet metal at its Memphis facility, including architectural panels made from aluminum composite, copper, and stainless steel.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at

This page was last modified on September 30, 2009.

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