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 Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) assist with enforcing laws that forbid employment discrimination based on race, including workplace racial harassment.
In a May 28, 2013 press release, the EEOC announced that a Tyler, Texas petroleum and gas industry equipment provider agreed to pay monetary relief and furnish other relief in order to settle a racial harassment lawsuit filed by agency attorneys in the Victoria Division of the Southern District of Texas. With offices located at Nordheim in South Texas, the company provided coiled tubing, pressure pumping, wrenching, testing and fracturing services to the petroleum industry in areas such as Eagle Ford Shale, an oil and gas drilling area that is making South Texas a petroleum industry hotbed.
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. Harassment based on race is demeaning and can deteriorate the work environment. Not only can racial harassment subject a person to emotional, physical and financial harm, but it can also make co-workers feel uncomfortable and distracted, contributing to lost interest in work, anxiety and a feeling that the work environment is unsafe.
According to the EEOC press release, a black employee of the company assigned to a field crew in South Texas experienced racial harassment in the form of racial slurs and epithets from two supervisors. In the racial harassment lawsuit, the EEOC contended that the employee reported the racial harassment to company management, but instead of putting a stop to it, the company unlawfully retaliated against the employee, who had 30 years of experience in the oil industry. In this regard, the punishment included removing the man from his crew and assigning him to perform menial tasks such as washing trucks and sweeping, rather than the oilfield work that he had been hired to perform, and reducing his work hours, thereby reducing his income. In addition, the EEOC lawsuit accused upper management of retaliating against this employee by interfering with subsequent job opportunities after his employment with the company ended.
The federal court racial harassment lawsuit was litigated in Victoria, Texas, with EEOC attorneys filing suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the federal agency’s conciliation process.
Such conduct as alleged violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits race discrimination, including racial harassment, and retaliation for opposing and reporting race discrimination. Similarly, Texas Labor Code Chapter 21 provides protections to individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race.
As a result of the Victoria, Texas racial harassment lawsuit, the petroleum and gas industry equipment provider must adhere to a court approved two year consent decree that requires the company to implement an anti-discrimination policy which prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of race and/or retaliation in violation of Title VII; post notice regarding the company’s commitment to protect employees from harassment; provide training to all of its employees; and pay $150,000.00 to the victim.
An EEOC trial attorney familiar with the case remarked that every employee has the right to a workplace free from harassment, commenting further that no one should be subjected to racial slurs and no company should tolerate such behavior in its workplace. A plaintiff attorney who work with EEOC trial attorneys on the racial harassment lawsuit added that “[o]ur country and Texas are better off when workers are judged on their abilities and not the color of their skin.”
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. In Fiscal Year 2012, the EEOC reports that the agency received 33,512 charge filings alleging race-based discrimination. This accounted for 33.7 percent of all charges filed with the EEOC in Fiscal Year 2012. For Fiscal Year 2013, the EEOC reports that the agency received 33,068 charge filings alleging race-based discrimination, accounting for approximately 35 percent of the 93,727 charges filed with the EEOC in 2013.
Whether Texas workplace racial harassment, including abusive racial slurs and epithets, occurs in Cuero, Karnes City, Eagle Ford Shale or elsewhere in the state, people subjected to this type of hostile work environment may contact the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division or the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to make charges of race 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 particular facts and circumstances of the potential employment discrimination case support filing of a Texas racial harassment lawsuit.