Race and Color Harassment Federal Cases and Statistics

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, including Title VII’s prohibitions against harassment based on race and color. Since 1964, the EEOC has filed, resolved and litigated a number of these types of employment discrimination and harassment cases. The EEOC remains determined to help eradicate racism and colorism in today’s workplaces by challenging contemporary forms of overt, subtle and implicit bias based on race and color.

On January 28, 2013, the EEOC announced statistics related to the 2012 fiscal year, stating that it received 99,412 private sector workplace discrimination charges during fiscal year 2012, down slightly from the previous year. In this regard, the year-end date published by the EEOC showed that retaliation (37,836), race (33,512) and sex discrimination (30,356), which includes sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination allegations, were, respectively, the most frequently filed charges. The EEOC reported that, in fiscal year 2012, it filed 122 lawsuits including 86 individual suits, 26 multiple victim lawsuits and 10 systemic suits while also resolving 254 lawsuits for a total monetary recovery of $44.2 million.

In a February 5, 2014 press release, the EEOC its data for fiscal year 2013, showing a 5.7 percent from 2012 filings to 93,727 for 2013. Retaliation under all statutes was the most frequently cited basis for discrimination charges. That basis was followed by race discrimination and then sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. For fiscal year 2013, the EEOC reported that it filed 131 merits lawsuits alleging discrimination and resolved 209 merits lawsuits, resulting in $39 million in monetary benefits to people subjected to discrimination and other forms of relief.

Examples of EEOC filed federal court lawsuits to challenge employment-related racial harassment and discrimination include cases inside and outside the jurisdictions of Texas federal trial and appellate courts.

In 2012, a South Dallas, Texas mill agreed to pay $500,000 to a class of 14 Black employees to settle an EEOC race discrimination suit alleging that the mill exposed Black employees to violent, racist graffiti and racial slurs by co-workers, such as KKK, swastikas, Confederate flags, “white power” and other racist terms, including the N-word and the display of nooses at an employee workstation. In that racial harassment lawsuit, Black employees contended that supervisors allowed the behavior to continue unchecked. During that same year, a federal district court in San Antonio ordered a company to take specific measures to prevent racial harassment of Black employees at its San Antonio plant following a $200,000 jury verdict finding the company liable for race discrimination under Title VII. Evidence at trial in San Antonio racial harassment lawsuit indicated that an anglo supervisor used the N-word, name-called Black, male employees, posted racially tinged materials in an employee break room and accused Black employees of always stealing and wanting welfare.

During 2011, the EEOC filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in Houston, Texas against a nationwide sporting goods retailer alleging that African-Americans and Hispanics were subjected to discriminatory practices in stores in the Houston area and elsewhere were subjected to racially derogatory remarks.

Additional federal court litigation by the EEOC includes two cases in 2010. In one case, a company that produced and distributed corrugated boxes and cushion packaging agreed to pay $600,000 to resolve a number of racial and sexual harassment charges stemming, in part, from allegations that Black employees were subjected to intimidation, ridicule, insults and racially offensive comments and jokes, and cartoons and images that denigrated African-Americans. According to information provided by the EEOC regarding that case, the EEOC lawsuit further alleged that white employees and managers regally emailed racially derogatory jokes, cartoons, and other materials to co-workers. And posted racially offensive photographs on the bulletin board outside the human resources office. A consent decree entered in the racial harassment case required the company to file audit reports with the EEOC summarizing each complaint of, for example, race discrimination or retaliation it received at its Pflugerville, Texas location. Separately, a Houston, Texas racial harassment lawsuit resulted in a Houston construction company paying $122,500 and furnishing other relief in a case that included allegations that Black employees were referred to as N-word and an employee of East Indian descent and Islamic faith was subjected to slurs based on his religion and national origin while Hispanics were referred to as “f—–g Mexicans.”

In 2009, EEOC attorneys filed a Texas federal court racial harassment lawsuit against a Mississippi drilling company. Allegations in that Texas racial harassment lawsuit included claims that a Black employee and three White employees were subjected to racial taunts and mistreatment from Hispanic employees. Further, they were told they needed to learn Spanish because they were in South Texas. As reported by the EEOC, the company agreed to establish an effective anti-discrimination policy and to provide anti-discrimination training to its employees.

EEOC information about employment-related racial harassment can be obtained at www.eeoc.gov . In addition, information about the EEOC’s Eradicating Racism & Colorism From Employment or E-RACE initiative efforts can be found at the federal agency’s website.

When workplace racial harassment, including abusive racial slurs, overt symbols of racism and racist epithets, impacts an employer’s business operations in Texas, people subjected to this type of hostile work environment may contact the EEOC to make or file a charge of race and color discrimination and, in doing so, trigger a federal investigations of race and color harassment discrimination complaints. In addition, people subjected to unlawful workplace racial harassment and hostile work environments may consult an attorney to discuss whether the particular facts and circumstances of the potential employment discrimination case support filing of a racial harassment lawsuit.