BOISE, Idaho – Coeur d'Alene Paving, Inc. will pay $60,000 and furnish other corrective measures to settle a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced last week.
The EEOC's suit argued that Shawn Fletcher, Richard Fletcher and Marcus Smith were subjected to ongoing racial slurs and jokes by a foreman, including references to the "N-word," "coons," and "coon food." Both Shawn and Richard Fletcher complained to the owners of the company about the harassment, the EEOC said, but the racial jokes and abusive language continued.
"This has been a long and difficult journey," Shawn Fletcher said. "But it feels good to have resolution. With this settlement, I feel like I can move on with my life."
Racial harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment or pregnancy) or national origin and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation. The EEOC filed this suit only after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with the company.
"It takes courage to come forward with a complaint of racial harassment, and these men should be commended for standing up for their rights, and for the rights of all current and future employees of Coeur d'Alene Paving," EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said.
"This case shows the necessity for the Commission's new initiative called E-RACE -- Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment," said EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado.
He said the program is designed to improve the EEOC's efforts to ensure that workplaces are free of race and color bias.
"By bringing lawsuits in cases involving race or color discrimination, we hope to continue to educate employers about the pressing problems faced by people of color at work, and about the employer's duty to keep the workplace free of such mistreatment," he said.
On February 28, 2007, EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp launched the Commission's E- RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment), a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign focusing on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace.
Further information about the E-RACE Initiative is available on the EEOC's web site at
The Commission has observed a surge of racial harassment cases over the past two decades. Racial harassment charge filings with EEOC offices across the country have more than doubled from 3,075 in Fiscal Year 1991 to a record high of nearly 7,000 in FY 2007.
As part of the settlement, Coeur d'Alene agreed to pay the claimants $60,000; review its policies on harassment, discrimination and retaliation; train managers and supervisors about the laws that prohibit workplace discrimination; and voluntarily provide information to the EEOC concerning its handling of Title VII-related complaints for the next four years.
The EEOC enforces federal laws in the private and federal sectors prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age and disability. The Seattle Field Office's jurisdiction includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at http://www.eeoc.gov.