Thursday, April 15, 2010
Just over a year ago, I posted a story about racial tensions in the town of Paris, Texas. There had been a murder that had racial elements, and Department of Justice community mediators had been called in. In addition, charges of employment discrimination at Turner Industries, a pipe fabrication plant, had surfaced. The EEOC has now made a finding of cause to believe that discrimination has occurred and is seeking to conciliate the matter.
According to a CNN report:
Black employees at the Turner Industries plant in Paris, Texas, regularly "were subjected to unwelcome racial slurs, comments and intimidation, racial graffiti, nooses in the workplace and other symbols of discrimination," the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported.
Black workers also were denied promotions and disciplined more harshly than whites, the agency concluded in a three-page letter in late March. Managers at the plant not only were aware of a "hostile environment," they also targeted workers who complained and disciplined white employees who opposed the harassment, the EEOC found.
Those workers took pictures of the racial grafitti, the nooses, and threatening notes to the EEOC. The company denies that its conduct violated Title VII, and at least some of the time, cleaned up the grafitti immediately. It sounds like this case is going to turn not on whether the harassment happened, but whether the company can be liable for it and whether the company retaliated against those who complained. Since the EEOC began its investigation, similar allegations have arisen about other Turner plants in other areas of Texas. It's always sobering to hear just how far we haven't come in two-and-a-half generations.