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Press Release 12-21-2016

EEOC Sues Hiatt & Mason Enterprises  For Racial Harassment

Black Employee Subjected to Racial Epithets Almost Daily, Federal Agency Charges

MOUNT AIRY, N.C. - Hiatt & Mason Enterprises, Inc., a structural steel erection services company, violated federal law when it subjected a black employee to a racially hostile work environment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to EEOC's complaint, around March 2014, Paul Bowman began working as a laborer, at Hiatt & Mason's facility in Mount Airy, N.C. EEOC's complaint alleges that, starting in March 2014, Bowman's white foreman and some of his co-workers subjected him to racial harassment for almost two years. The alleged misconduct included daily or almost daily use of the "N-word" and other racial epithets, as well as racial jokes about blacks. On more than one occasion, Bowman was threatened physically by one of the co-workers who engaged in racist name calling. The complaint further charged that the company's equal employment opportunity officer witnessed at least one of the incidents of harassment and received complaints about some of the abuse, but took no action to stop it. Bowman left the company around March 2016.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from allowing a racially hostile work environment to exist in the workplace. EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Hiatt & Mason Enterprises, Inc., Case No. 1:16-cv-01429) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC seeks monetary relief, including compensatory and punitive damages for Bowman, as well as injunctive relief.

"Employers must take appropriate action to stop employees' use of racial slurs in the workplace," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "EEOC takes a company's disregard for the federally protected rights of its employees very seriously and will prosecute cases where this kind of abuse occurs."

EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.