Trucking Company Fired Dispatcher for Protesting Racism, Federal Agency Charges
OXFORD, Miss. – A Phoenix, Ariz.-based trucking company will pay $55,000 and furnish other relief to settle a retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s suit (Civil Action Number: 2:07-cv-0170-MPM-SAA), filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, charged that Knight Transportation, Inc. fired dispatcher Eric Newton in retaliation for complaining of race discrimination he suffered while working at the company’s Olive Branch, Miss., facility.
Newton worked as night shift dispatch supervisor and was responsible for, among other things, responding to telephone calls from over the road drivers seeking permission to change their routes or delivery schedules. Newton reported to Knight's management racial slurs made by a driver. The EEOC said that Knight Transportation never investigated Newton's complaint, but instead terminated Newton's employment as retaliation for complaining.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful to retaliate against a person who complains about treatment that he or she reasonably believes is discriminatory. The EEOC brought the lawsuit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
Under the terms of the 24-month consent decree settling the suit, Newton will receive $55,000 in monetary relief. The decree also requires Knight Transportation to generate an audio CD for all truck drivers at its Olive Branch facility with training on discrimination, retaliation and harassment.
“Internal complaints about unlawful harassment give the employer the chance to correct problems before they turn into lawsuits,” said District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas of the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office. “This case should remind employers that they have an obligation to take prompt and effective measures to stop workplace misconduct.”
EEOC Regional Attorney C. Emanuel Smith added, “The EEOC is pleased that Knight worked cooperatively to resolve this matter, including an agreement for meaningful training of staff. Their commitment for training by compact disc distribution is a meaningful step to having an informed workforce. We hope that this lawsuit reminds other employers of their obligations under federal law.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.