U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Downhole Technology Fired a Black Employee for Complaining About Racial Intimidation With a KKK Hood, Federal Agency Charges
HOUSTON - A manufacturer of equipment used in hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") violated federal law when it retaliated against an employee for reporting that he had been harassed by his white coworkers because of his race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
The EEOC's suit alleges that Downhole Technology failed to adequately respond after Kenneth Echols, who is black, reported that his coworkers had used a white hood - evocative of the type used by the Ku Klux Klan - to intimidate, ridicule and insult him. The suit also contends that, rather than addressing his concerns, Downhole Technology instead reprimanded and then fired Echols for reporting the conduct to them.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee because of race or allowing coworkers to harass him. It also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for reporting discrimination, including harassment.
The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 4:17-cv-00574) in the Houston Division of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas after it unsuccessfully attempted to reach a settlement agreement with Downhole Technology through its pre-suit conciliation process.
The EEOC is asking the court to permanently enjoin Downhole Technology from engaging in future discrimination and retaliation. It is also asking the court to order Downhole Technology to pay Echols both punitive and compensatory damages, in addition to lost wages and benefits.
"Employers cannot and must not discriminate on the basis of an employee's race," said Rayford Irvin, director for the EEOC's Houston District Office, which has jurisdiction over parts of Texas and all of Louisiana. "Doing so denies employment equality and violates federal law."
Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the Houston District Office, cautioned, "Employers who disregard their employees' rights to be free from discrimination will be held accountable by the EEOC."
The 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.