While it is true that racial harassment cases have more than doubled in the last 20 years, it is still hard to believe that racial slurs are still so rampant in the workplace. Not to mention other forms of harassment demonstrating extreme racial hate and hostility. But, apparently, some employees still feel that they can get away with hanging a noose at work, to express their racial animus toward African-American co-workers.
The EEOC continues to fight racial harassment in the workplace
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recently sued NFI Interactive Logistics, LLC, a New Jersey transportation and distribution service provider, for racial harassment. According to the suit, African-American employees at one of the company's Illinois facilities were being subjected to racial harassment. What may be surprising is that the harassment took the form of nooses in the facility, as well as racially harassing comments such as blacks swinging from trees, and blacks being lazy and dependent on the government.
The displaying of the noose in this case was perhaps unique. A stuffed monkey was often displayed with a rope tied around its neck, apparently hanging. It appears that bigots still tend to gravitate toward the same racist stereotypes and historically racist symbols.
The EEOC's take on this unfortunate type of harassment
An EEOC attorney was clearly outraged by the facts of this case, as evidenced by the following statement:
This kind of blatant, racially charged conduct – 50 years after the passage of Title VII – is an unfortunate reminder of why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was and is so necessary. No employee should face such utterly unacceptable and patently offensive conduct when he or she comes to work. And it's an outright violation of federal law — a violation which it is the EEOC's mandate to remedy.
The EEOC attorneys involved in the case were also disappointed in the fact that the company provided no race discrimination or harassment training for its employees. As one attorney noted, "A complete absence of training on the duty to prevent harassment and discrimination is a recipe for disaster." We could not agree more.
How important is Title VII training?
It seems the EEOC is not impressed with the lack of workforce training in Title VII requirements. In fact, had proper workforce training occurred, the case against the New Jersey company may never have arisen. It may also be a result of a lack of proper policies, as well as a lack of zero tolerance of harassment of any kind. Whatever the cause, racial harassment should not be tolerated.
If you feel you have been the victim of race discrimination, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.