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Firm to pay $1.25M to eight Black former employees in EEOC case


A San Jose, California-based electrical company has agreed to pay $1.25 million to eight Black former employees to settle racial harassment litigation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC said Friday that Air Systems Inc. is an electrical subcontractor at the construction project for Apple Inc.’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California.

The agency said the racial harassment included racist graffiti of swastikas and racial epithets drawn on the walls of the Apple Park construction project’s portable toilets, as well as a noose at the worksite hung next to a scrawled note containing expletives and a threat of lynching. 

The EEOC said the company also failed to act when notified by two Black employees that a white coworker had taunted them with racial pejoratives.

The company was charged with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under a consent decree that is effective until Dec. 31, 2022, in addition to paying $1.25 million in compensatory damages to the former employees, the company will review company policies and train all employees on preventing and reporting racial harassment, among other provisions.

Air Systems has about 500 employees statewide and is part of Norwalk, Connecticut-based EMCOR Group Inc.

William Tamayo, the EEOC’s San Francisco district director, said in a statement, “While a construction worksite may raise issues over who controls conditions, this case should send a clear message that whether an employer is a subcontractor or the general contractor, all employers have a duty to take prompt, effective action to stop harassment and hate speech in the workplace.

“In this period of national reckoning on the persistence of racial discrimination, we’re glad that Air Systems agreed to settle this matter and provide significant relief to these workers.”

Air Systems President Art Williams said in a statement that the company “treats employees with fairness, equality and respect, and we have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment. Upon learning of these troubling allegations, the Company initiated a comprehensive investigation and took swift corrective actions, and we cooperated fully with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission throughout its review.

“We are satisfied to have reached a resolution with the EEOC and will use this experience as an opportunity to reaffirm our values, enhance our anti-discriminatory policies and practices, and ensure every employee feels welcome at Air Systems.”

In June, an Illinois temp agency agreed to pay $568,500 to settle a race and sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC.