Black Employee Subjected to Racist Language and Images, Federal Agency Charges
PHOENIX - Arizona Discount Movers of Phoenix violated federal law by subjecting an African-American employee to racial harassment and forcing him to quit to escape the abuse, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
In its suit, the EEOC charges that a supervisor at Arizona Discount Movers frequently made comments such as "white power," "if you're not white, you're not right" and used the N-word to refer to employee Clinton Lee. The supervisor also told Lee to get out of a room because they were having a Klan meeting. At one point, a troll doll was painted black, a Post-it was affixed to the troll doll, which read "Clint Lee," and the doll was hung in the middle of the facility. The EEOC says that despite Lee's complaint about the troll doll, the company failed to take adequate action. This misconduct created an unlawfully hostile work environment for Lee, forcing him to resign to escape further mistreatment.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, including racial harassment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona (EEOC v. Arizona Discount Movers, Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-01966-HRH) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.
The lawsuit asks the court to order Arizona Discount Movers to provide Lee appropriate relief, including back wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and a permanent injunction enjoining the company from engaging in any further racially discriminatory practices. The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to institute and carry out policies and practices that will eradicate and prevent racial harassment there in the future.
"Racial harassment is never acceptable in any workplace," said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. "The conduct that Clinton Lee suffered here is deeply disturbing and violates federal law. We are particularly concerned that he was subjected to language and conduct by his supervisors that attempts to assert white superiority over African-Americans. Employers and supervisors have a legal duty to create a safe workplace environment for their employees."
EEOC District Director Elizabeth Cadle said, "The language and images that were aimed at Mr. Lee were crude, cruel and something no one should have to endure today. The EEOC is here to fight such malicious mistreatment of American employees."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.