Published Date: 08/11/2014
By George Ports
The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a jury verdict and more than $243,000 for victims of racial harassment and retaliation in a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against AC Widenhouse, Inc., a Concord, NC based trucking company.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, two African-American employees worked as truck drivers for AC Widenhouse. From as early as May 2007 through at least June 2008, one employee was repeatedly subjected to unwelcome derogatory racial comments and slurs by the facility’s general manager (who was also his supervisor), the company’s dispatcher, several mechanics and other truck drivers, all of whom are white. The employee testified that on one occasion he was approached by a co-worker with a noose and was told, “This is for you. Do you want to hang from the family tree?”
The other employee testified that he also was subjected to repeated derogatory racial comments and slurs by the company’s general manager and white employees. He testified that when he was hired in 2005, he was the only African-American working at the company. According to the employee, the company’s general manager told him that he was the company’s “token black.” The employee testified that on another occasion the general manager told him, “Don’t find a noose with your name on it,” and talked about having some of his “friends” visit him in the middle of the night. Both employees testified that they had complained about racial harassment to the company’s management, including the owner, but that the harassment continued.
A Winston-Salem jury returned a unanimous verdict, finding that both employees had been harassed because of their race, and that one had also been fired in retaliation for complaining about racial harassment.
For more information about the EEOC and the regulations it enforces, go to www.eeoc.gov.