EEOC Lawsuit Results in Jury Award of Punitive Damages, Continuing Recent Trend of Trial Victories
SAN ANTONIO - A federal jury awarded $200,000 in punitive damages yesterday to three former employees of AA Foundries in a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced.
The EEOC's lawsuit charged AA Foundries, Inc., a local San Antonio manufacturer of ferrous castings and producer of foundry mold machines, with racially harassing its African-American employees in violation of federal law. One African-American employee testified at trial that he filed an EEOC complaint because he wanted his children to learn not to be prejudiced against others nor for others to be prejudiced against them in the workplace.
AA Foundries Superintendant, the top plant official, not only used the "N" word himself, but admitted that it did not bother him that derogatory racial slurs were commonly heard in the workplace. The superintendant also called adult African-American male employees "mother-f---g boys," posted racially-tinged written material in the break room, and routinely slandered them referring to them as "you people" and accusing African-Americans of always stealing and wanting welfare. After several employees filed racial harassment charges with the EEOC, a noose was displayed at the AA Foundries workplace. In response to employee complaints about this noose, the superintendant described such reports as "BS" and stated the noose "was no big deal" and that "you people are too sensitive."
This type of conduct constitutes a hostile work environment, a form of race-based discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action Number 5:11-cv-792, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
"Whenever necessary, the EEOC will take cases into the courts across our nation to ensure the eradication of discriminatory workplace conduct. This is the latest in a number of successful cases the Commission has taken to trial this year," said David Lopez, General Counsel of the EEOC.
"The jury's verdict in this case upholds the public interest and will benefit all employees at AA Foundries," said Senior Trial Attorney Eduardo Juarez of the EEOC San Antonio Field Office. "Employers must take measures to prevent racial harassment and to properly respond to any type of complaint of discrimination. Management officials, in particular, must act promptly to stop and remedy discrimination-not be the instigators of harassment themselves."
Supervisory Trial Attorney Judith G. Taylor added, "All workers are entitled to earn a living free from harassment. The jury's verdict signals to employers the importance of having strong and effective anti-harassment policies in place that all employees, especially those in supervisory or management positions, know and follow."
Earlier this month, a jury in Colorado awarded $187,000 in back pay, finding that EEOC proved retaliation when a company fired a district manager after 25 years of service for reporting age-based discriminatory treatment by a new supervisor. The judge in that case will next determine whether the damages will be doubled based on the jury's conclusions that the conduct was willful. In July, a jury in Baltimore found for the EEOC that several female employees of a microsurgery medical practice were subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation, rendering a verdict for $350,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.