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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
2-22-10

EEOC Sues Pinnacle Amusements for Racial Harassment

Party Rental Company Subjected Black Employees to Racial Slurs, Federal Agency Charges

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today that Pinnacle Amusements, Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., violated federal law by subjecting black employees to a racially hostile work environment. Pinnacle Amusements is a family-owned business that specializes in corporate, school, church and private party amusement rental needs, such as slides, moon bouncers and other inflatable party products in the Charlotte-Metro area.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, for six years, Benjamin Henderson, a driver and warehouse employee, and other African American employees were repeatedly subjected to unwelcome derogatory racial comments and slurs. These epithets included the “N-word,” as well as racial jokes by one of Pinnacle’s owners, who was also the company's owner / vice president. According to the EEOC’s complaint, Henderson complained about the racial harassment, but the owner / vice president ignored his complaints, telling Henderson that he was “just joking,” or that Henderson was a “tough guy” and could handle the racial slurs and comments. Henderson also complained to Pinnacle Amusement's co-owner, who is the company's president. Despite Henderson’s complaints, the racial harassment continued, the EEOC said.

Racial harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition, Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of his race. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Pinnacle Amusements, Inc., U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Civil Action No. 3:10-cv-00065) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The agency seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Henderson and other African American employees, as well as injunctive relief.

“The evidence presented to the EEOC indicates that one of Pinnacle Amusement’s owners created a racially hostile work environment which Mr. Henderson and other black employees endured in order to keep their jobs,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. “It is this agency’s mission to eliminate discrimination in the workplace and we will vigorously prosecute cases like this.”

Tina Burnside, supervisory trial attorney in the Charlotte District Office, said, “Racial harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated. This case was especially distressing because this owner subjected a black employee to racial slurs, considering it a joke. Discrimination is not a joke – it’s a violation of federal law.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.