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Salem Electric Company to Pay $40,000 to Settle EEOC Race Discrimination Suit

Black Employee Fired Because of His Race, Federal Agency Charged

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A Winston-Salem, N.C.- based electric company will pay $40,000 and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The agency charged that Salem Electric Company fired a black employee because of his race.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit (EEOC v. Salem Electric Company, Civil Action No. 1:11 CV 00119), filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Salem Electric terminated Rodney Tonkins’ employment around Dec.17, 2007. The EEOC said the company claimed Tonkins was responsible for a crew of employees that damaged light fixtures during a light installation project and that consequently he was responsible for some damage that allegedly occurred. However, according to the EEOC’s complaint, Tonkins was an electrician with no supervisory authority over the workers, and thus was not responsible for the supposed damage. Instead, according to the EEOC’s complaint, the company’s superintendent and foreman, both of whom are white, were in charge of the project and the crew workers. Salem Electric did not discipline or terminate either of those individuals or the non-black employees who actually caused the alleged damage.

In addition to paying the $40,000 in damages, Salem Electric is enjoined from any further discriminating based on race and has agreed to redistribute its policy prohibiting race discrimination to managers and supervisors; conduct anti-discrimination training for managers and supervisors; post a notice about the settlement; and report to the EEOC on certain employees who are discharged under certain conditions.

“We are pleased the EEOC was able to resolve this case alleging racial discrimination and obtain the equitable relief and training requirements,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “It is unfortunate that race discrimination is still a persistent problem in the 21st century workplace, over 45 years after the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC will continue to fight for the rights of employees affected by illegal employment practices.”

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