U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Supervisor Threatened Black Workers With Gun and Noose, Federal Agency Charged
MINNEAPOLIS - A Hugo, Minn., construction company violated federal civil rights law by subjecting African-American employees to a hostile work environment based on their race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed in Minnesota today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, William Staple and Dion Pye worked for JL Schwieters Construction, Inc., located in Hugo, as carpenters between September 2012 and December 2013. Staple and Pye were both subjected to racial harassment during their employment by a white supervisor.
EEOC said the harassment included the supervisor making racially derogatory comments to Staple and Pye, including calling them "n----r." The supervisor told Staple and Pye that he had a gun, and made threats that he could "shoot a n----r a mile away." The supervisor made a noose out of electrical wire and threated to hang Staple and Pye, EEOC alleged. The harassment was witnessed by other supervisors, but no action was taken to stop it. According to EEOC's lawsuit, Pye complained to another supervisor and the company's safety director about the harassment, but no action was taken to stop or prevent the harassment.
This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from discrimination based on race. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. JL Schwieters Construction, Inc.; Civil Action No. 16 cv 3823 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC seeks compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.
"Racial discrimination and harassment are always unconscionable and illegal, but a situation where African-Americans are called racial slurs and threatened with a noose and gun is utterly shocking and unacceptable in the 21st century," said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for EEOC's Chicago District. "EEOC will vigorously fight to stop such severe and cruel practices in any workplace."
EEOC's legal team in its Minneapolis Area Office will conduct the litigation under the management of the agency's Chicago District Office. That office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates .