Thursday, October 17, 2019

New EEOC case is a not-so-subtle reminder that we still have a lot of work to do to improve race relations

The allegations in this case—which the EEOC just filed against a Louisiana river transporter—remind us that while race relations have improved over the past several decades, they are far from perfect and we remain a nation with a lot of work to do.

Lionel Jones, African-American, has worked for American River Transportation Company as a deckhand since September 2016. For the first year of his employment, he worked with a white employee by the name of Cody Hampton. Hampton, along with other white employees, used the n-word on a daily basis. Jones asked Hampton to stop, as he found it offensive, but Hampton told him that since he used the word every day he would have difficulty stopping. Jones then took his complaint to the ship’s captain, who told Jones there was nothing he could do about it.

Several months later, Hampton placed a rope he had fashioned into a noose on the deck of the ship near Jones and other African-American employees. Jones again reported the alleged harassment to the ship’s captain, who again did nothing.

The alleged harassment did not stop until Jones transferred to another ship, away from Hampton.

Commenting on this lawsuit, Keith Hill, director of the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office, said, “The work environment the employee describes is deeply offensive. Employers have a responsibility to take swift and effective action to eliminate the use of racial slurs and similar misconduct from the workplace, whether engaged in by its own workers or others on their premises.” Added Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston Office, “Employees have an absolute right under Title VII to work in an environment free from racial slurs and all types of racially offensive conduct.”