Prohibited Workplace Racial Harassment

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The Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can receive and investigate charges or complaints racial harassment related to employment.

Texas Labor Code Chapter 21 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect individuals against employment discrimination and harassment based upon race.  As explained by the Texas Workforce Commission in its website at www.twc.state.tx.us/crd/racial-discrimination.html , an employer may not discriminate against an employee or applicant in hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment.  Further, Texas employers may not legally base employment decisions on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division, ethnic slurs, racial jokes, offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct based on a person’s race constitute unlawful racial harassment if the work-related conduct creates an intimidating, hostile of offensive working environment, or interferes with the individual’s work performance.  The Texas Commission on Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, have been interpreted to prohibit requiring people to work in a discriminatorily hostile or abusive environment.

With respect to racial discrimination related to one’s work, racial epithets such as the N-word can demonstrate racial animus since that type of offensive language is a universally recognized opprobrium, stigmatizing African Americans because of their race.  Causey v. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet, Inc., 394 F.3d 285, 289, n.2 (5thCir.2004); Brown v. Mississippi Electric Power Association, 989 F.2d 858, 861 (5thCir.1993).

For its part, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race.  In this regard, the EEOC will issue press releases discussing some employment discrimination lawsuits filed by the EEOC.

For example, the EEOC reported in a September 24, 2013 press release that agency attorneys filed a racial harassment lawsuit against a moving supply company, charging that eight Black current and former employees were subjected to racial slurs and other racially offensive comments by their white supervisor, a shop manager.

According to discrimination claims presented by EEOC attorneys in the racial harassment lawsuit, the shop manager regularly referred to black employees with the N-word and other derogatory slurs.  It was also alleged in the lawsuit that the company engaged in retaliation by firing one of the employees when complaints of racial harassment were made to the shop manager and another person.

Racial harassment violates Title VII and attorneys filed the racial harassment lawsuit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through the EEOC pre-litigation conciliation process.  As an EEOC attorney familiar with the case explained, the case I part of the EEOC’s ongoing effort to eradicate racial harassment from the workplace and demonstrate consequences for failing to take prompt and effective action when complaints are made about racial harassment.  As another EEOC attorney said, “Employees shouldn’t have to endure harassment and abuse to support their families.”

As a result of the racial harassment lawsuit, the national moving supply rental company ultimately agreed to pay $750,000.00 and provide other relief to settle the claims.  The additional relief included a consent decree that enjoins the company from discriminating against its employees because of their race and from retaliating against workers who assert their rights in the future.  Among other things, the consent decree requires the company to maintain an anti-discrimination policy prohibiting race discrimination, racial harassment and retaliation, and to provide mandatory training to all employees regarding the policy.  Moreover, the company was required to provide written reports to the EEOC regarding any race discrimination or racial harassment complaints by employees.

Prior to that lawsuit, the EEOC announced separately in an August 2013 press release that a mattress manufacturer and distributor was the target of a racial harassment lawsuit alleging that black employees were subjected to a racially hostile work environment when white employees made unwelcome, derogatory racial comments that included repeated use of the N-word.  An attorney familiar with that racial harassment lawsuit remarked that “[t]he EEOC will vigorously enforce” federal laws prohibiting employment-related racial harassment.

Information about employment-related racial harassment can be obtained at the websites of the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Whether workplace racial harassment, including abusive racial slurs and epithets, occurs in Beaumont, Houston or elsewhere in Texas, people subjected to this type of hostile work environment in Texas may contact the TWC or EEOC to make charges of discrimination and trigger state or federal investigations of racial harassment complaints.  In addition, people subjected to unlawful workplace racial harassment may consult an attorney to discuss whether the facts and circumstances of the potential employment discrimination case support filing of a racial harassment lawsuit.

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