U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Company Subjected Black and Hispanic Employees to Racial Slurs and Retaliated Against Those Who Complained, Federal Agency Charges
NEW YORK - A & F Fire Protection Co., Inc., a Massapequa, N.Y.-based sprinkler installation company, violated federal law by creating and tolerating a hostile work environment in which black and Hispanic employees were routinely hit with racial insults and also by retaliating against employees who complained, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to EEOC's suit, black and Hispanic employees were subjected to repeated racial harassment, of which the company was aware, by supervisors and by co-workers. The workers were called called the "N-word," "spics," "jigaboos," and "wetbacks," the EEOC said. Further, instead of taking steps to ensure that the harassment ended, the company retaliated against employees who complained by firing them or forcing them to quit. In fact, the EEOC charged, upon receiving two EEOC discrimination charges, the company owner instructed a supervisor to fire the employees who had filed the charges, and when this supervisor refused, he also was retaliated against.
Harassment based on race or national origin, and retaliation for speaking out against such conduct in the workplace, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. A & F Fire Protection Co., Inc. in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Case No. 17-CV-_____) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks monetary and injunctive relief, including back wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and changes in employment policies to prevent any future harassment or retaliation.
"The use of racial slurs in the workplace is unacceptable," said EEOC New York District Office Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. "The abuse was so pervasive in this case that its tolerance was especially troubling. Upon learning of racial harassment in the workplace, it is an employer's obligation under the law to ensure that it does not continue."
EEOC New York District Office Director Kevin Berry added, "An employer only makes a bad situation worse and violates federal law when it retaliates against an employee for raising concerns about discriminatory behavior. Preventing retaliation against employees who come to the EEOC for help is one of the agency's top priorities."
EEOC Trial Attorney Kirsten Peters noted, "Federal courts have held that even one utterance of a racial slur by a supervisor in the workplace can constitute legally actionable harassment. In this case, the use of racial slurs was a regular occurrence. Employers cannot permit widespread harassment of this sort to occur."
The New York District Office of EEOC oversees New York, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
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.