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Press Release 12-02-2014

Well Servicing Companies to Pay $1.2 Million to Settle EEOC Suit for Race Harassment, Retaliation

Blacks, Hispanics and Indians Verbally  Abused and Punished for Complaining, Federal Agency Charged

DENVER - A federal judge in Casper, Wyo., has approved a  $1.2 million settlement in a case brought by the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission against Dart Energy Corp. and two related companies, the  federal agency announced today.  The EEOC  had charged well servicing companies Dart Energy Corp., Beckman Production  Services, Inc., and J&R Well Service, LLC with violating federal law  prohibiting race and national origin harassment and retaliation. The EEOC sought monetary and injunctive relief  for more than a dozen men who claim that they had to endure racially derogatory  comments and jokes on a regular and repeated basis.

According to the EEOC's suit, truck pusher Ken Nelson, as  well as other J&R employees, regularly used terms like "wetback" and  "beaner" to refer to Hispanic employees, "wagon burner" to refer to Native  American employees, and the "N-word" to refer to black employees. Nelson was also accused, among other things,  of referring to shovels as "Mexican backhoes" and stating that "Custer should  have killed all the Indians."

The EEOC's accusations extended to J&R rigs as well. According to the EEOC's amended complaint, minority  employees on the rigs regularly heard racist terms and demeaning remarks about  green cards and deportation. Terms such  as "n----r-rigging" and telling employees to "n----r a pipe down" were also  common, according to the EEOC's complaint.    

According to EEOC, several individuals complained to  management, but their complaints were minimized or ignored entirely. The EEOC reported, for example, that Area  Supervisor Jim Ferguson responded to employee complaints by telling complaining  employees that they could quit, or by saying that he was sick of everyone  coming to him and that everyone simply needed to do their jobs.

Further, the EEOC said, several  men were demoted or fired after taking their complaints of discrimination to  the Wyoming Department of Employment Labor Standards Division.

All this alleged conduct  violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race and  national origin harassment and retaliation for complaining about it.  The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Dart Energy Corp. et al., Case No. 13-cv-00198-SWS (D.Wyo.)  after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its  conciliation process.

In addition  to paying $1.2 million, the defendants in the case are also subject to a  three-year consent decree which requires extensive training on employment  discrimination laws, the establishment of a toll-free anonymous complaint  line, and annual surveys of employees to ensure that discrimination is not  occurring at J&R facilities. The defendants  are also enjoined from engaging in any future employment practice which  discriminates on the basis of race and/or national origin, and from retaliating  against individuals who oppose such practices. J&R and Beckman will report to the EEOC  twice a year for the decree's duration.
"This case is the latest in a series  of successes the Commission has had addressing egregious racial and  national origin harassment," said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez.  "This type of outrageous discrimination sadly  still exists.  Employers in the oil and  gas industry should heed this settlement and renew their efforts to ensure that  employees are treated equally regardless of race or national origin."

EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo  O'Neill added, "The type of blatant racist conduct alleged in this case has no  place in the workplace. We believe that  our lawsuit and the significant relief obtained in this settlement will send  the message, not only to the defendants, but to the entire industry that the EEOC  will not this kind of misconduct - or retaliation for complaining about it."

EEOC Trial Attorney Sean Ratliff expressed his pride in  the individuals who brought the original complaints. 

Ratliff said, "Working in the oil and gas industry can be  dangerous enough. Employees shouldn't  have to fight bigotry at the same time. I  commend these men for standing up for their rights. I hope that their efforts  will inspire others to do the same."

Denver Field Director John Lowrie added, "The Wyoming  Department of Employment Labor Standards Division partnered with the EEOC by  taking the charges and beginning the investigation, which was then completed by  the EEOC. The EEOC partners with state  and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs), such as the Wyoming FEPA,  in order to enforce employment discrimination laws."

The EEOC enforces the federal  laws prohibiting employment discrimination.   Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at