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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
6-22-11

A.C. Widenhouse Sued By EEOC For Racial Harassment

Freight Trucking Company Subjected Black Employees to Racial Slurs and Nooses, Federal Agency Charges

SALISBURY, N.C. – A Concord, N.C.-based freight trucking company violated federal law by subjecting a class of African-American employees to a racially hostile work environment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, from as early as May 2007 through at least June 2008, Contonius Gill, a truck driver, and other African-American employees were repeatedly subjected to unwelcome derogatory racial comments and slurs by employees and managers at A.C. Widenhouse, Inc. These comments and slurs included “n----r,” “monkey,” and “boy.” On one occasion Gill was approached by a co-worker with a noose and was told, “This is for you. Do you want to hang from the family tree?” The complaint alleges that on another occasion, the company’s general manager told Gill, “We are going coon hunting, are you going to be the coon?” Gill and other black employees complained to A.C. Widenhouse management and the co-owner of the company about the racial harassment, but the harassment continued, the EEOC said.

Race discrimination, including racial harassment, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. A.C. Widenhouse, Inc., 1:11-cv-00498), in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Salisbury Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The agency seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Gill and other black employees, as well as injunctive relief.

“Cases like this remind us that, sadly, in the 21st century, racial harassment still exists in workplaces across America,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “No person should have to endure racial slurs, racially derogatory comments or other offensive conduct because of his or her race. The display of nooses is especially cruel and unacceptable. The EEOC will vigorously prosecute cases like this one involving racial harassment.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.