EEOC Obtains $1 Million For
Black Man Choked With Hangman’s Noose By White Co-Workers
Charged Commercial Coating Service With Severe Racial Harassment
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Rudy L. Sustaita, EEOC Senior Trial Attorney
Tuesday, March 21, 2006 (713) 209-3400
Jim Sacher, EEOC Regional Attorney
Rose Adewale-Mendes, EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney
TTY: (713) 209-3439
HOUSTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) today announced the settlement of a racial harassment
lawsuit against Commercial Coating Service, Inc. for more than $1 million on
behalf of a black employee who was subjected to a barrage of racial
epithets, culminating in an incident where white co-workers placed a noose
around his neck in the company bathroom and choked him in October 2002.
In its lawsuit, filed in 2003 (EEOC et al. v.
Commercial Coating Service, Inc., civil action no. H-03-3984), the EEOC
asserted that Commercial Coating did not stop its employees, including
managers, from harassing charging party Charles Hickman on the basis of his
race (black) and subjecting him to a racially hostile work environment –
including verbal and physical abuse. The company, located in Conroe,
Texas, specializes in internal and external application of various coating
bends, fittings, fabricated spools, valves, and short runs of straight pipe.
“It is shocking that such egregious racial
harassment still occurs in the 21st century workplace, more than 40 years
after passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act,” said EEOC’s Houston
District Director Jeanette Leino.
suit was filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, after
the EEOC first attempted to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement.
In addition to the monetary relief for Mr. Hickman, who worked as a
sandblaster, the company agreed to enter into a consent decree that will
overhaul its employment practices to improve the corporate culture and
further equal employment opportunities. The consent decree will be overseen
by U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison, who signed it yesterday.
EEOC’s Houston Regional Attorney, Jim Sacher, noted:
“In addition to being choked with a hangman’s noose, Mr. Hickman was
called the N-word and a monkey. The facts showed that the company was
aware of the unlawful conduct and did not stop it, which only caused a bad
situation to get much worse.”
Rudy L. Sustaita, the lead attorney for the EEOC in
the case, said: “We are pleased with the resolution and look forward to
working with the company to make sure this kind of malicious conduct never
occurs again. Settling the case saves judicial resources and removes
uncertainty for Mr. Hickman, but despite the large monetary settlement, we
feel no amount of money satisfactorily compensates him for such appalling
discrimination. We call on all employers to be vigilant in rooting out
race discrimination from the workplace.”
The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible
for enforcing the nation's anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.
Further information about the Commission is available on the agency’s web
site at www.eeoc.gov.