EEOC Settles Race/National Origin Bias Claim for $14.5 Million

May 8 2015 - Discrimination, Termination - Gail Cecchettini Whaley

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently settled a lawsuit against a multistate oil drilling company involving charges of race and national origin discrimination, harassment and retaliation at facilities throughout the country. The combined monetary relief for all of the victims totals $14.5 million.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the company engaged in a “nationwide pattern or practice of discrimination” on its drilling rigs, including “assigning minorities to the lowest level jobs, failing to train and promote minorities, and disciplining and demoting minority employees disproportionately.”

The EEOC also claimed that the company tolerated a hostile work environment: “employees endured frequent and pervasive barrages of racial and ethnic slurs, jokes, and comments, as well as verbal and physical harassment and intimidation of minority employees.”

Employees who complained about discriminatory practices were then retaliated against, including discriminatory discipline and discharge.

The EEOC settlement highlights the EEOC’s prioritized focus on charges of systemic discrimination or harassment. After the EEOC received charges from several individuals, the matter was assigned to a lead systemic investigator in Phoenix who then consolidated the charges and began a nationwide investigation. In the end, the EEOC estimated more than 1,000 people were affected.

In addition to the $14.5 million award, the company is required to take several compliance measures, including training, minority outreach, compliance monitoring and reporting, and random exit interviews to ensure discrimination is not continuing.

Because of the complexity of dealing with employment discrimination claims, consult with counsel or other experienced resources immediately upon receiving an agency notice of a discrimination charge against your company.​

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content

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