Friday, May 27, 2016

Employer Pays $250,000 Settlement in Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

Earlier this week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), announced a $250,000 settlement in a race and national origin discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against American Casing & Equipment, Inc., a North Dakota oilfield service company.  According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Matthew Clark, a Filipino-American, worked for American Casing & Equipment as a laborer on the “rat hole crew” responsible for cutting, welding and putting pipes in the ground.  

Shortly after he started the job, Clark alleged he was harassed by a white manager because of his race and national origin and subjected to racial and ethnic slurs.  Clark lodged a complaint with the company’s safety manager about the harassment and was fired. Clark alleges he was fired in retaliation for his opposition to the workplace abuse in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.   The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota after pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process was unsuccessful.

The parties entered into a consent decree settling the suit which provides $250,000 monetary relief to Clark and also requires American Casing & Equipment to train all of its managers, supervisors and employees on the federal laws prohibiting race and national origin discrimination and retaliation, and to implement stricter internal penalties for managers who fail to report and/or take appropriate action with respect to discrimination complaints in the workplace.

According to the EEOC, the settlement “sends a strong message to employers that race and national origin harassment and retaliation will not be tolerated in the workplace.”  The EEOC also hopes that the changes implemented under the consent decree serve as a model for creating a workplace free of discrimination in the oilfield service industry.

This case illustrates how costly employment discrimination lawsuits can be for employers, and why it is critical for employers to ensure that all managers and supervisors are trained on their responsibilities to report and take appropriate action when they witness or receive discrimination complaints.