In December 2022, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that a piping inspection and services company will pay $250,000 to resolve a race discrimination and retaliation suit. The discrimination case involved harassment, racist remarks, and illegal termination. The EEOC will continue to pursue employers that violate federal laws prohibiting sex and race discrimination, as well as the discrimination of other protected classes. Earlier, the EEOC announced a $550,000 settlement in a hiring discrimination lawsuit that included race discrimination.

Overview of the Race Discrimination and Retaliation Case

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a black employee hired to work at the company’s Texas office received racist remarks from his supervisor as early as his first day on the job. The race discrimination and harassment continued throughout his employment. The racist comments consisted of the “N-word” and highly offensive racist jokes directed against the black employee and other minority individuals at the worksite. Subsequently, the black employee complained to the company’s vice president. However, the company failed to take corrective action. Instead, the company disciplined the black employee more harshly than other non-black employees. Finally, the company fired him.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity), and national origin. Title VII considers harassment a type of discrimination against these protected classes. Markedly, harassment is illegal when:

  1. Enduring the harassment becomes a condition of continued employment, and
  2. It is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

The law requires employers to reasonably try to prevent and correct the behavior. In fact, employers are responsible for any supervisors or other employees over whom they have control. Finally, Title VII also protects employees who object to discrimination from retaliation or any adverse employment action against an employee exercising their rights.

Penalties for Race Discrimination and Retaliation

The EEOC filed suit in EEOC v. American Piping Inspection, Inc., in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The district court ordered the company to pay $250,000 in monetary relief for the race discrimination and retaliation charges. In addition to the monetary relief, the district court approved a three-year consent decree requiring the company to revise its anti-discrimination policies. The company must distribute this revised policy to all employees and new hires. Along with the policy, the company must post a discrimination notice and equal employment opportunity (EEO) law posters, including the EEOC’s updated “Know Your Rights” poster, at all worksites. The decree also requires the company to train managers and human resources personnel on illegal race discrimination and retaliation. Briefly, the training must address their obligation to prevent, address, and remedy workplace discrimination by any individual in the workplace. Finally, the company must submit regular compliance reports to the EEOC.