A Long Island based sprinkler installation company violated the discrimination laws by creating and tolerating a hostile work environment in which black and Hispanic employees were harassed and 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 in federal court.
According to EEOC’s lawsuit, 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 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. The EEOC lawsuit alleges that, 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 was also retaliated against.
Harassment based on race or national origin, and retaliation for speaking out against such conduct in the workplace, violates the anti-discrimination laws that protect workers’ rights.
“The use of racial slurs in the workplace is unacceptable,” said an EEOC attorney. “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.” Attorneys for the EEOC said, “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.”