The EEOC recently resolved racial harassment and retaliation claims brought by three employees working at a Selma construction site for Olympia Construction, Inc., an Alabama company. According to the lawsuit, three African-American employees were being racially harassed by their project superintendent and another supervisor. After they complained about the mistreatment, they were terminated. The company has agreed to pay $100,000.00 to resolve their claims.
Title VII Claims Against Olympia Construction
Olympia Construction, Inc. is an Alabama company, headquartered in Albertville, which develops and constructs family housing and housing for seniors in several states throughout the South and Southeast. According to the lawsuit filed by the EEOC, both the project superintendent and a supervisor at one of the company’s work sites in Selma routinely used racially derogatory language towards three African-American employees. On one occasion, the project superintendent demanded that the three employees leave the worksite after taunting them and calling them the “N” word. The employees reported the incident to the owners of the company and informed the owners that they had contacted the EEOC. At that point, Olympia Construction terminated them.
How Courts Typically Determine Severe or Pervasive Harassment
The determination of whether alleged harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to support a legal claim is made on a case-by-case basis because every situation is different. The following factors are considered, though none of them alone is dispositive, and not all of them are required:
• the frequency of the unwelcome discriminatory conduct;
• the severity of the conduct;
• whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance;
• whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with work performance;
• the effect on the employee’s psychological well-being; and
• whether the harasser was a superior within the organization.
Attempts at Settlement Before Litigation Were Unsuccessful
The EEOC attempted to settle the claims on behalf of the employees before filing a lawsuit in federal court through the agencies conciliation process but were unable to do so. As a result, the EEOC filed the lawsuit seeking monetary damages, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief. The EEOC District Director pointed out the importance of employers being responsible for preventing racial misconduct on construction sites as well as in office buildings. It is their responsibility to also implement the proper disciplinary actions when illegal conduct is discovered.
Employer Agrees to Settle the Race Claims for $100,000.00
In order to settle the claims of these three employees, Olympia Construction, Inc. agreed to pay the three employees a total of $100,000 after being subjected to racial slurs and intimidation and then terminating them after they complained to the EEOC. The consent decree was approved in February by U.S. District Judge Kristi K. Dubose of the Southern District of Alabama.
In addition to the monetary compensation, Olympia Construction, Inc. is also required to take necessary actions to prevent future harassment and retaliation by providing ongoing training for employees and management, to report future complaints and responses to the EEOC and providing required notices to employees about their rights and how to report harassment, discrimination or retaliation in the workplace.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King . You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!