U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Roofing Company Charged with Racial Harassment, Discriminatory Job Assignments, and Failure to Promote African-American Employees
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Elmer W. Davis, Inc., the largest commercial roofing contractor in New York State and one of the top 40 largest commercial roofing contractors in the United States, will pay $1 million to African-American employees to settle a race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. This is the largest EEOC settlement ever in Rochester.
The EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 07-CV-06434), filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York in Rochester in 2007, charged that black employees at Elmer Davis were subjected to a pattern of race discrimination, including harassment, unfair work assignments, failure to be promoted, and retaliation for complaining about discrimination from at least 1993 through the present.
According to dozens of African-American employees, they were constantly subjected to racial slurs by their white foremen. Blacks were routinely referred to as “n----r,” “lazy n-----rs,” “sambo,” “slave,” and “monkey.” Foremen also frequently made comments like, “All n----rs should get on a boat and go back to Africa.” They were also exposed to nooses and racially offensive graffiti like “dirty n----r,” “KKK” and swastikas written on the walls of the portable toilets at work sites.
The lawsuit also charged the roofing company with subjecting African-American employees to disparate treatment in job assignments, claiming that it generally reserved the most difficult, dirty and less desirable jobs for black workers, including “tear off” and “hot tar” jobs, often referred to as the “bull work,” while whites were assigned to detail work and service trucks to conduct repairs.
African-American employees were routinely laid off first at the end of the roofing season and called back last in the beginning of the following season, while whites were laid off later and called back earlier.
The EEOC further charged that the company systematically excluded black employees from promotion opportunities, which it accomplished by using a subjective system of promotions without job announcements or an application process, and actively discouraging black employees from seeking promotions.
The EEOC alleged that Elmer Davis’s conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The case was investigated by the Buffalo Local Office of the EEOC before it proceeded to court.
Elmer Davis will be bound by a five-year consent decree which, in addition to the $1 Million monetary relief for the victims of discrimination, enjoins the company from engaging in further race discrimination or retaliation. The decree requires Elmer Davis to hire an EEO Coordinator to provide training, monitor race discrimination complaints, and report to the EEOC on hiring, layoff and promotion. The decree has been submitted to U. S. District Court Judge Siragusa for approval.
“This settlement marks the end of decades of ugly and unlawful discrimination against African-American employees at Elmer Davis,” said Spencer Lewis, district director for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “No employee should have to endure slurs and other harassment in order to do his job. The EEOC will remain vigilant to protect workers from these types of abuses.”
Trial Attorney Judith Biltekoff added, “This consent decree will not only right the wrongs perpetrated against the African-American employees at Elmer Davis, but also promote a race-neutral work environment for all employees going forward.”
The EEOC has a fact sheet on race discrimination available on its website at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/fs-race.html.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.