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Oil drilling firm settles race bias case for $14.5 million


A Texas oil drilling company has agreed to pay $14.5 million to settle U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission race and national origin discrimination, harassment and retaliation charges.

The settlement with Snyder, Texas-based Patterson-UTI Drilling Co. L.L.C., which was announced by the agency Monday, settles an EEOC lawsuit for $12.3 million and also resolves several cases through separate conciliation agreements that led to the total $14.5 million settlement, the EEOC said in its statement.

The EEOC had charged in its lawsuit that since at least 2008, Patterson-UTI had engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of discrimination based on race and national origin on its drilling rigs, including assigning minorities to its lowest level jobs, failing to train and promote minorities, and disciplining and demoting minority employees disproportionately.

In addition to the monetary relief, the settlement requires Patterson-UTI to create a new position of vice president who will report directly to the company’s CEO and have monitoring compliance and EEOC reporting responsibility, and to create antidiscrimination training for all employees, among other requirements.

“This type of egregious discrimination, sadly, still exists,” EEOC regional attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the agency’s Phoenix district said in a statement.

“Employers in the oil and gas industry should heed this settlement and increase their efforts to ensure that employees are treated equally regardless of race or national origin. We are very pleased that Patterson-UTI resolved this case so quickly and is committed to providing a good working environment for all of its employees.”

Andy Hendricks, CEO of Houston-based Patterson-UTI Energy Inc., the drilling company’s parent company, said in a statement, “We take this matter very seriously and are pleased to have reached a resolution. We have built a culture of respect, diversity and equal opportunity in our company and have zero tolerance for anything less.”

“We are committed to providing a safe, welcoming and respectful work environment that is consistent with our core values,” Mr. Hendricks concluded.

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