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Press Release 08-08-2022

Plains and Copperhead Pipeline Companies Reach Settlement with EEOC for $1.75 Million

Joint Employers in Permian Basin Retaliated Against Workers Complaining of Race, National Origin and Sex Harassment, Federal Agency Charges

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Four national companies that jointly built and maintained oil & gas pipelines in New Mexico and Texas will pay $1,750,000 and provide other relief to settle a systemic race, national origin and sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

“No one should have to put up with insults or derogatory remarks about their race or national origin just to earn a living,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “But that has been the experience for many Black, Native American and Hispanic workers in high-risk, infrastructure jobs, and it’s way past time for that to end. This settlement helps brings justice to the individuals who suffered demeaning and dangerous harassment, and also secures real changes that will promote equal employment opportunities for all employees in these workplaces.”

According to the EEOC’s suit, Plains Pipeline, L.P., Plains All American GP, LLC, Plains Marketing, L.P. and Copperhead Pipeline and Construction, Inc., operating as joint employers of six original complainants and ten additional male oil pipeline workers in southeastern New Mexico – part of the Permian Basin region – subjected the men to harassment based on race (African American), national origin (Native American, Hispanic, and Mexican), and/or sex (male). The EEOC further alleged that the companies then retaliated against them by firing them for complaining about the harassment or associ­ating with coworkers who complained about the harassment.

 Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects workers from race, national origin, and/or sex harassment and prohibits employers from retaliating against individuals who report the harassment or employees associated with the complaining employees. The EEOC litigated this lawsuit (EEOC v. Plains Pipeline, L.P., Plains All American GP, LLC, Plains Marketing, L.P., and Copperhead Pipeline and Construction, Inc., Civil Action No. 7:2020-cv-00082) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas (Midland Division).

 The consent decree settling the suit requires the Plains and Copperhead companies to review and update their discrimination and retaliation policies, as well as post an anti-discrimination notice. The companies will also provide training on Title VII harassment and retaliation to all of their employees, including a separate, more detailed training to managers and human resources staff.

In addition, Plains and Copperhead agreed to discipline their managers and supervisors responsible for the alleged retaliatory conduct and terminate the alleged harasser. The decree also requires that Plains and Copperhead pay the 16 discrimination victims $1,750,000. The decree also requires reports to the EEOC detailing compliance with the terms of the decree and receipt of any complaints of Title VII discrimination or retaliation. The court will retain authority to enforce the terms of the decree for its three-year duration.

EEOC Trial Attorney Jeff Lee, who handled the case for the EEOC’s Phoenix District and Albuquerque Area Office, said, “Federal law requires employers to act promptly to protect employees who are harassed on the basis of their race, national origin, or sex. This type of harassment once tolerated in the oilfield as ‘boys being boys,’ has no place in any work environment, but is particularly dangerous in a hazardous environment such as working on oil and gas pipelines.”

Acting District Director Melinda Caraballo of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office added, “Employers, including contractors and subcontractors working for them, are responsible for preventing, recognizing, stopping, and remedying the harassment. Failing to do so not only violates federal law, it also encourages more harassment and retaliation. We appreciate that these employers worked toward reaching an agreement with the EEOC that will improve their training, policies, and procedures to recognize and prevent future discrimination.”

More information about the types of discrimination involved in this case can be found here:

Combating systemic discrimination is a component of the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). More information is available here:

            The EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and parts of New Mexico.


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.