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Press Release 09-24-2018

EEOC Sues Riddle Painting and Coatings For  Racial and Sexual Harassment

Employer Tolerated Repeated Verbal and Physical Racial and Sexual Harassment, Federal Agency Charges

PHOENIX - Riddle Painting and Coatings, an Arizona industrial and commercial painting company, violated federal law when it subjected employees to a hostile work environment based on race and sex, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on Friday.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, employees at Riddle Painting frequently used the N-word and one employee in particular repeatedly called a black employee the N-word. The EEOC also charged that male employees at Riddle Painting used sexually derogatory language and repeatedly inappropriately touched other male employees' legs, buttocks and genitals. According to the EEOC, at least one employee complained about the harassment, and Riddle Painting knew or should have known of the racial and same sex sexual harassment but failed to take any actions to stop or remedy the abuse. The EEOC further charged that the racial and same sex sexual harassment made working conditions so difficult that an employee was forced to resign.

Sexual and racial harassment are forms of discrimination which are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona (EEOC v. Michael L. Riddle Painting, Inc., d/b/a Riddle Painting & Coatings Case No. 2:18-cv-02990-DLR) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC's suit seeks monetary damages for the harassment victims, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent and correct discrimination.

"The EEOC remains vigilant in its fight to identify, remedy, and ultimately eradicate racial and sexual harassment in the workplace," said Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC's Phoenix District Office. "Racial expletives should never be used in any workplace - they're demeaning, offensive and unacceptable. Employers are legally required to stop this kind of abusive language and behavior."

Elizabeth Cadle, the EEOC's Phoenix District director, added, "Employers may think allowing sexual harassment in the workplace is acceptable as long as it is labeled as horseplay. It isn't, and employers that allow their employees to be bullied in this way will be held accountable."

The EEOC's Phoenix District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The Phoenix District Office conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.

The 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.