African-American Employee Consistently Harassed by Day & Zimmerman Manager, Fired After Making Many Complaints, Federal Agency Charges
NEW YORK - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Day & Zimmerman NPS, a leading supplier of maintenance, labor, and construction services to the power industry, yesterday filed a consent decree resolving EEOC's claims that Day & Zimmerman violated federal law by creating a hostile work environment for an African-American laborer. In the lawsuit, EEOC alleged that Day & Zimmerman, through its foreman at the Poletti Power Plant in Astoria, Queens, N.Y., had subjected Carlos Hughes to physical and verbal racial harassment.
According to the EEOC, Day & Zimmerman's foreman subjected Hughes to daily harassment for almost a year and a half. The harassment included racial insults and derogatory stories referring to African Americans as stupid and incompetent, as well as frequently tripping Hughes, and once kicking him in the buttocks. The foreman also told racist jokes in the workplace, and made negative comments about African Americans; including that Sean Bell (shot by the police at a nightclub) deserved to be shot, and threatened that candidate Barack Obama would be shot before the country allowed a black president.
EEOC alleged that Hughes complained to management many times for more than a year regarding the harassment, and that when Day & Zimmerman finally arranged a meeting in response, it disciplined Hughes less than an hour later, and then fired him that same day, citing a false safety violation as a reason.
This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, including racial harassment, and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation.
"Race harassment has absolutely no place in any workplace. Derogatory and hateful language poisons the work environment and creates a serious emotional toll on affected employees," said Elizabeth Grossman, regional attorney in the EEOC's New York District Office.
Kevin Berry, director of the EEOC's New York District Office, said, "EEOC is particularly concerned when repeated complaints of race harassment are met not with a solution but with retaliation. We will pursue retaliation claims against those employers who punish employees who come forward to complain of harassment or discrimination."
Day & Zimmerman is one of the largest providers of plant maintenance, modification and construction services to the fossil and nuclear power generating industries throughout the United States. Last year it boasted annual revenues of $2.1 billion and a global workforce of over 24,000 across 150 worldwide locations. As part of the consent decree, Day & Zimmerman agreed to additional training of its managers at the Poletti Power Plant and to encourage use of its telephone hotline number by employees who believe they have been subjected to discrimination or harassment.
Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede the EEOC's investigative or enforcement efforts, is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further information about the EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov