Mining Company Fired Polish-American Foreman Because He Complained About Slurs and Graffiti, Federal Agency Charged
BECKLEY, W.V. - Rhino Energy WV LLC will pay $62,500 and furnish significant relief to resolve a federal lawsuit for national origin discrimination and retaliation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the suit, the mining company subjected Michael Jagodzinski to pervasive harassment based on his Polish ancestry, including subjecting him to derogatory ethnic slurs and names and displaying offensive graffiti about him on mine walls and elsewhere in the workplace.
EEOC also charged that Rhino Energy WV failed to take prompt action to stop the national origin harassment and instead unlawfully fired Jagodzinski in retaliation for his complaints about the harassment.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination and harassment based on national origin. Title VII also forbids employers from firing or otherwise disciplining an employee because he or she complained about discriminatory conduct. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Rhino Energy WV LLC d/b/a Rhino Eastern LLC, Civil Action No. 5:14-cv-26250) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Beckley Division after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $62,500 in monetary relief to Jagodzinski, the five-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Rhino Energy WV from violating Title VII in the future. The mining company must implement and disseminate to all employees a policy prohibiting harassment, discrimination and retaliation, create an internal complaint procedure, and provide that any employee who violates the policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Rhino Energy WV must also provide training to all managers, human resources personnel and employees on Title VII's prohibitions against discrimination, harassment and retaliation. In addition, Rhino Energy WV must report to EEOC on how it handles any internal complaints of discrimination or harassment and must post a notice about the settlement at all of the mines it operates in the United States.
"If an employee complains about national origin harassment, the employer must carry out an investigation and stop any unlawful harassment. Engaging in retaliation against the victim of harassment does not make the problem go away - instead it significantly increases the risk of an EEOC enforcement action," said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr.
Debra M. Lawrence, regional attorney of EEOC's Philadelphia District Office, added, "It is important that all employees know that harassment and discrimination based on national origin and retaliation are illegal. No employee should be required to accept ethnic slurs or degradation in order to earn a living, nor be fired for complaining about such treatment."
The Philadelphia District Office of EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the Philadelphia District Office also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.