The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



EEOC Says Helmerich & Payne Subjected Black Workers to Racist Behavior on Oil Rig

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the settlement of a discrimination lawsuit for $290,000 and significant injunctive relief against Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co. (H & P) on behalf of African American men who were subjected to a racially hostile work environment on an oil rig. H & P is an energy oriented company engaged in contract drilling primarily in the United States, South America, and Africa.

The racial harassment in the case including hangman’s nooses displayed on Rig 108, derogatory racial language, and race-based name calling, all of which was directed at black employees. In addition to the nearly $300,000 in compensatory damages to be apportioned among the seven class members, the two-year consent decree settling the case (EEOC v. Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co. Case No. 3:05-CV-691) contains the following injunctive relief:

“We are pleased that H & P has taken these important steps to improve its work environment,” said C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District, which includes Alabama, most of Mississippi, and the Florida Panhandle. “The monetary relief for the victims in this case should remind employers that there is a high price to pay for racial harassment.”

Commenting from agency headquarters in Washington, EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp said:
“A noose is a racial icon that constitutes a severe form of harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Nooses are closely associated with racial intimidation, violence and death, and therefore have no business in the workplace. It’s time for corporate America to be more proactive in preventing and eliminating racist behavior. The EEOC intends to make clear that race and color discrimination in the workplace, whether verbal or behavioral, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The EEOC has observed an increasing trend of racial harassment cases over the past two decades, some of which involve hangman’s nooses. Racial harassment charge filings with EEOC offices nationwide have more than doubled from 3,075 in Fiscal Year 1991 to approximately 7,000 in FY 2007 (based on preliminary year-end data). In addition to investigating and resolving charge filings brought to the EEOC, the federal agency has sued about three dozen employers this decade for racial harassment involving nooses.

EEOC Birmingham District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas, said, “Despite what some may think, overt forms of race and color discrimination have resurfaced in today’s workplace – in addition to new and more subtle forms of racism. There has been strong evidence over the past two decades, as shown in this case, that racist language and nooses are far too common on the job.”

On February 28, 2007, EEOC Chair Earp launched the federal agency’s E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism And Colorism from Employment), a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign focusing primarily on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace. Further information about the E-RACE Initiative is available on the EEOC’s web site at

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

This page was last modified on October 25, 2007.

Home Return to Home Page