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PRESS RELEASE
9-29-10

Briggs Equipment, Inc. Sued by EEOC for Race Discrimination

Qualified African-American Mechanic Harassed and then Terminated Because of Race, Federal Agency Charges

LAREDO, Texas – Briggs Equipment, Inc. (“Briggs”), a Dallas-based company and North America’s largest industrial and construction equipment distributor, discriminated on the basis of race by condoning a racially-hostile work environment, imposing disparate discipline and ultimately terminating an employee because of his race—African-American--the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

The suit alleges that Briggs’ Hispanic supervisors regularly used the N-word and the term “Negrito” as well as other vulgarities when addressing Road Service Technician Bobby Wysong who is black. In addition to addressing him with racially derogatory slurs, EEOC alleges that the supervisor, Mario Rodriguez, also hurled insults toward Wysong such as “You’re the only real slave here.” Rodriguez also singled him out for harsher treatment, writing him up and threatening to fire him for mistakes that Wysong’s Hispanic co-workers were merely allowed to correct. These actions culminated in Wysong’s discharge in February 2009, after which Rodriguez stated "I have got rid of that dark horse.”

Racial harassment—including slurs, offensive or derogatory comments—as well as discharge due to race, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After the EEOC’s San Antonio Field office determined that Briggs violated the law, it filed suit (CASE NO. 5:10-cv-00108) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Laredo Division.

“No employee should have to endure racial slurs, jokes and other harassment in order to do his job,” said Senior Trial Attorney Eduardo Juarez of the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “Employers must remember that harassment based on race is against the law.”

The EEOC filed this lawsuit only after conciliation efforts to reach a voluntary settlement with Briggs failed. In the lawsuit, the EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting Briggs from engaging in race discrimination, as well as other non-monetary relief to eradicate discriminatory employment practices that violate Title VII. The EEOC is also seeking back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and other relief.

Judith G. Taylor, Supervisory Trial Attorney of the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office added that “Workplace harassment accompanied by a double-standard of treatment of employees based on race, will not be tolerated by the EEOC. We will continue to aggressively pursue employers who fail to prevent or promptly correct racially hostile misconduct and who make employment decisions based on race.”

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