Radioactive Waste Processing Company Targeted Black Workers for Higher Radiation Exposure, Federal Agency Charged
MEMPHIS – A Memphis radioactive waste processing company will pay $650,000 to 23 African American employees and provide other relief to settle a race and retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit against Race, LLC, doing business as Studsvik, LLC (Civil Action No. 2:07-cv-2620, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division), Courtney Britton, who worked as a lead worker in the shop for Studsvik, and other African American employees, were subjected to racially offensive comments by their white supervisor. Further, the complaint alleged that Britton’s supervisor regularly referred to him and other African American employees with the N-word and other derogatory slurs, such as “boy.”
In addition, the EEOC said, white managers subjected Britton and other African American employees to excessive radiation exposure, more than their white co-workers. The EEOC also charged that Britton was suspended for 15 days and then laid off in retaliation for complaining about the racial harassment.
“Some of the discrimination alleged in this case is unusually extreme because of the physical danger it created for African American employees,” said EEOC Acting Chair Stuart J. Ishimaru. “It is deeply disturbing that this kind of race-based discrimination could be inflicted upon innocent workers. Further, the EEOC is particularly concerned when people who have the courage to speak out against such discrimination then experience retaliation by their employer. The EEOC will fight such misconduct forcefully, as we did in this case.”
Besides the monetary relief, the three-year consent decree resolving the case enjoins Studsvik from discriminating against its employees because of their race and from retaliating against workers who assert their rights, and enjoins Studsvik from making assignments in the shop area based on race. Studsvik agreed to adopt and maintain an anti-discrimination policy prohibiting discrimination, to distribute the policy and complaint procedure to all employees, and to provide mandatory training to all employees regarding the policy.
At the training, Studsvik’s highest ranking individual will either appear in person or via video conferencing to announce and affirm the company’s commitment to a zero tolerance policy concerning race discrimination, its new anti-discrimination policy, and the penalty for violating the policy. Finally, Studsvik will provide annual written reports for three years to the EEOC regarding its job assignments and any complaints about discrimination.
Regional Attorney Faye A. Williams of the EEOC’s Memphis District, which includes Tennessee, Arkansas, and 17 counties in Northern Mississippi, said, “Racial harassment remains a longstanding problem in the workplace for many minorities. Mr. Britton and other African American employees endured the abuse because they needed to work to support their families. The manager who rendered such abuse is no longer employed and cannot be rehired. This resolution ensures that there are now policies and procedures in place so that African American employees are treated with dignity and respect in this workplace.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.