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A federal judge in Casper, Wyoming, has approved a $1.2 million settlement in a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission race harassment and retaliation case filed against an oil well services company that was charged with taking no action in response to complaints about racial slurs against its minority employees, the agency said Tuesday.
The company, Mason, Michigan-based Dart Energy Corp., which was sued along with related Wyoming companies J&R Well Service L.L.C. and Beckman Production Services Inc., said in a statement that it settled the lawsuit because the cost to fight to a verdict was too high. It also accused complaining employees in the case with seeking financial gain.
The EEOC, which filed the lawsuit last year, said J&R employees regularly directed racial epithets against Hispanic, Native American and black employees.
The EEOC said in its statement that several individuals’ complaints to management about the behavior were minimized or ignored entirely. In addition, several workers were demoted or fired after taking their complaints to the Wyoming Department of Employment’s Labor Standards Division, the EEOC said. The defendants were charged with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In addition to paying the $1.2 million, the defendants are also subject to a three-year consent decree that requires extensive training on employment discrimination laws, among other measures.
“The type of blatant racist conduct alleged in this case has no place in the workplace,” Phoenix-based EEOC regional attorney Mary Jo O’Neill said in a statement. “We believe that our lawsuit and the significant relief obtained in this settlement will send the message, not only to the defendants, but to the entire industry” that the EEOC will not accept this kind of conduct or retaliation for complaining about it.
The company said in its statement it admits no liability and supports employees who have been accused of wrongdoing in the case.
“A thorough internal investigation conducted after the claims were made in 2009 found no support for the allegations. Despite that, we have cooperated with the EEOC since the commission filed its lawsuit in 2013 and are proud of how our employees represented themselves and us throughout this process.”
“We hope the claims made by a small number of former employees for the purpose of personal financial gain will not sully the hard work and contributions of our many upstanding employees,” the company said in its statement.
Three El Cerrito, California-based seed and fertilizer providers that operate as a single employer have agreed to pay $197,500 to settle charges they allegedly subjected job applicants to illegal medical and genetic information inquiries.