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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
8-24-11

Briggs Equipment Settles EEOC Race Discrimination Suit

Qualified African-American Mechanic Harassed and Then Fired Because of Race, Federal Agency Charged

LAREDO, Texas – Briggs Equipment, Inc., a Dallas-based  company and one of North America’s largest industrial and construction  equipment distributors, will pay a former  employee $112,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race discrimination  lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the  agency announced today.

The  EEOC’s lawsuit, Civil Action No. 5:10-CV-00108, in U.S. District Court for the  Southern District of Texas in Laredo,  charged that Briggs subjected Bobby Wysong to unlawful  discrimination when it terminated him from his position as a technician because  of his race, black. The EEOC further  alleged that Briggs subjected Wysong to a racially hostile work environment. Mario Rodriguez, a management official for  Briggs who had direct supervisory authority over Wysong, blatantly referred to  Wysong, among other things, as a “n----r,” “mayate”  (a racial epithet against blacks widely used in South  Texas), “slave” and “dark horse” in conjunction with expressly  stating he wanted Wysong fired. Rodriguez  himself admitted to using the racial slur “n----r” at work and several  witnesses corroborated that he routinely used racist epithets and made racist  jokes at the workplace.

Further, the EEOC said, when Wysong  was wrongfully discharged, he lost his company medical insurance, after which he  incurred substantial medical bills due to orthopedic surgery.

Racial  harassment -- including slurs and offensive or derogatory comments -- as well  as discharge due to race violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after the EEOC’s San  Antonio Field Office determined that Briggs had violated Title VII and after it  tried to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the Commission’s  conciliation process.

In the consent decree settling the suit, besides the  monetary relief of $112,000, Briggs also  agreed to negotiate and pay Wysong’s medical bills he incurred due to  the loss of his health insurance, which have an approximate value of $273,000. Briggs agreed to comply in the future with Title VII and to provide  training regarding Title VII to current employees assigned to work at the  Briggs facility at Laredo.  Briggs further agreed to modify its  written anti-discrimination policy, which specifically addresses race  discrimination.

“We are very pleased with the  resolution of this case,” said Eduardo Juarez, senior trial attorney  of the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “Not only have we obtained significant  financial relief for Bobby Wysong, the employment practices that Briggs uses  will be greatly improved. No one should  have to put up with racial abuse in their place of work – or, even worse,  losing his livelihood because of racism. Smart employers can prevent racial harassment  by not only promulgating anti-discrimination policies but also making such  policies effective through regular training and monitoring.”

Supervisory  Trial Attorney Judith G. Taylor of the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office said, “We commend Briggs for  acknowledging the importance of preventing discriminatory practices and that employees have the right to work in an environment that is  free from racial harassment.”

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