PHOENIX – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is settling a lawsuit against Arizona Discount Movers of Phoenix after the company was accused of subjecting an African American employee to egregious racial harassment and forced him to quit to escape the abuse.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC), lawsuit, a supervisor at Arizona Discount Movers frequently made racist comments to an African American employee named Clinton Lee. The EEOC alleged that the supervisor also told Lee he could not enter the building because they were having a Ku Klux Klan meeting and put a statue of a jockey on his desk with a whip in the jockey’s hand tied in a noose. He labelled the statue “Clint.”
According to the EEOC, the same supervisor hung a troll doll painted black with a Post-it affixed to the doll that read, “Clint King.” The doll was hung from a hook and displayed in the middle of the facility. The EEOC also alleged that Lee’s supervisor pointed to the doll and said “Hey Clint look! That’s you!” Lee complained to the owner, who told Lee to take the doll down if he did not like it. Lee felt he had to resign because of the harassment, and the EEOC further alleged that, since 2011, Arizona Discount Movers has required its employees sign a two-page “Rules and Employee Agreement,” which included both “Negative attitudes, fighting, complainers will not be tolerated here” and “Drugs, fighting, foul language, racism, arguing will be tolerated.”
According to the EEOC, 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 its suit (EEOC v. Arizona Discount Movers, Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-01966-HRH) in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The lawsuit was resolved by a consent decree, which was signed by District Court Judge H. Russel Holland. The consent decree requires Arizona Discount Movers to pay Lee $54,000 and provide him with a written apology, as well as a positive reference letter. The company must also develop policies against discrimination and against retaliation, provide training on discrimination, furnish the EEOC with periodic reports, and post a notice about the lawsuit and about employees’ rights. The consent decree also includes a permanent injunction enjoining the company from engaging in any further racially discriminatory practices.
“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. “Using a noose to terrorize an African-American is especially vicious, as it combines bigotry with a physical threat. The EEOC will keep fighting against racism in the workplace, and it will continue to emphasize that using nooses to taunt African American employees is absolutely unacceptable.”
EEOC District Director Elizabeth Cadle said, “The language and images aimed at Mr. Lee were crude and cruel. No one should have to endure treatment like that in order to make a living. Unfortunately, a disturbingly large number of the charges that we receive in Arizona involve discrimination like this against African Americans, despite the fact that African-Americans make up only 4.1% of the population in Arizona.”