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Press Release 09-30-2019

Plains Pipeline and Copperhead Pipeline Construction Sued by EEOC for Harassment and Retaliation

 Joint Employers Fostered Harassment of Workers Based on Race, National Origin and Sex, Fired Employees for Opposing It, Federal Agency Charges

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A group of construction and marketing companies violated federal law by subjecting a number of male oil pipeline workers to various forms of illegal harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Com­mission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

The EEOC said 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 other male oil pipeline workers in southeastern New Mexico, subjected the men to harassment based on race, national origin, and/or sex, and retaliated against them for complaining about the harassment or associ­ating with employees who did so.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, a Plains crew supervisor subjected a group of men, including men who were African American, biracial, Hispanic, Native American and/or white, to severe or pervas­ive harassment. The supervisor called them by derogatory, offensive insults based on their race or national origin. The supervisor also subjected men to unwelcome sexual conduct because of their sex, the EEOC said. 

Further, the EEOC charged that when employees complained to Plains and Copperhead about the unlawful conduct, the employers failed to take preventive or corrective actions and instead fired the employees as retaliation. Plains and Copperhead also terminated employees who associated with the employees who opposed the unlawful harassment, the EEOC said.

All this alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Plains Pipeline, L.P., Plains All American GP, LLC, Plains Marketing, L.P., and Copperhead Pipeline and Construction, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-00912, in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico after first attempt­ing to reach a settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks back pay, compensa­tory damages and punitive damages for the affected workers as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent discriminatory practices in the future.

"Federal law requires employers to act promptly to protect employees who are harassed on the basis of their race, national origin, or sex," said EEOC Phoenix District Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Failing to do so not only violates federal law, it also encourages more harassment. Unfor­tunately, we still see employers react to complaints by punishing the employees who stand up against harassment instead of dealing with the harassers themselves."

Elizabeth Cadle, district director of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "More than half of the charges the EEOC receives now involve some form of retaliation. Employers must adopt prac­tices and procedures to respond appropriately when an employee or applicant says he or she has been discriminated against."

The EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part 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.