Press Release 01-31-2007


Fortune 500 Company Subjected African Americans to Nooses, Threats, Nazi and KKK Messages, Agency Charged


PITTSBURGH C  AK Steel Corporation will pay $600,000 to settle a racial harassment lawsuit  brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency  announced today. The EEOC had charged that  the Fortune 500 company violated federal law at its Butler, Pa.,  facility by creating and condoning a racially hostile work environ­ment for a  group of African American employees, which included widespread racist and  threatening displays for years.

According  to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the hostile work environment has included, since at  least 2000, racially graphic graffiti, the displaying of nooses and swastikas  in work areas open to African American employees, racial slurs and epithets,  the open display of Ku Klux Klan videos in employee lounge areas and the  circulation of Populist Party literature where the party candi­date, David  Duke, is a known KKK leader. Some of the  graffiti contained direct or implied threats to African Americans, such as a  message to “kill” them and a picture of bullets coming out of a gun accompanied  by a threatening insult toward blacks.  There was also a good deal of Nazi graffiti, including “I ♥ Adolf.”

Besides com­plaints by black  workers about these matters, the EEOC said, the problem was so pervasive that  AK Steel’s managers had knowledge of what was happening without such  complaints. Subsequent to the filing of  this lawsuit, Gerald Patterson, who had filed the initial charge, died.

Such  alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes  it illegal to deny a person any employment opportunity because of that person’s  race or color, sex, religion or national origin. A work environment free from racially hostile  words and actions is included in the range of “employment opportunities.”

The consent decree settling the  lawsuit provides Patterson’s estate and a class of seven African American employees  with $600,000 and includes a commitment that all employees who work at the Butler location will  receive annual training in the company’s equal employment opportunity policies.

“The racial harassment alleged in  this case, including the use of derogatory ethnic terms, nooses displayed in  the work environment and disciplining those who complained of race  discrimination, represents some of the most severe misconduct this office has  seen,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jacqueline McNair. “Through the consent decree resolving this  case, EEOC will monitor AK Steel’s treatment of employees to ensure a workplace  environment free of harassment and race discrimination. Further, we believe the sizable monetary  relief and the proposed training of employees on anti-discrimination policies  may serve as a deterrent to future acts of blatant racism.””
  According to its web site, Middletown, Ohio-based AK Steel is  a Fortune 500 company with nearly $6 billion in sales and major plants  and offices in Ohio, Indiana,  Kentucky and Pennsylvania. The company makes flat-rolled carbon steel and  stainless and electrical steel products.

  The EEOC is  responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws prohibiting employment dis­crim­ination  based on race, color, gender (including sexual harassment and pregnancy),  religion, national origin, age, disability and retaliation. Further information about the EEOC is  available on its web site at