Thursday, November 14, 2019

EEOC settlement provides expensive lesson on including social media in your anti-harassment policies and training

EEOC v. Nabors Corp. Services involves serious allegations of racial harassment, including the following.

Being addressed at work by co-workers with racial slurs such as “nigger”; being exposed at work to offensive, racially derogatory social media images and material circulated by co-workers and managers; being exposed to racist graffiti, including racial slurs and derogatory drawings concerning Black persons at company facilities in and around Pleasanton, Texas; being referred to as members of the “colored crew” by employees and managers; and in some instances, being subjected to intimidation and physical threats by employees because of race, Black.

The company recently resolved this case, agreeing to pay 10 employees a total of $1,225,000 to settle the EEOC’s claims of racial harassment, race discrimination, and retaliation.

In addition to the monetary relief, the Consent Decree also requires the employer to implement certain policies regarding employee social media use.

Defendants will maintain policies regarding social media use and information technology assets that prohibit the use of company email, software, or hardware or any company issued communication device in such a way as to engage in racially offensive communication or other conduct that is determined by the companies’ office of human resources to be detrimental to the companies’ commitment to a discrimination-free workplace. Defendants’ policies will provide that use of personal social media in a way that evidences insulting or hostile attitudes based on race is subject to consideration by the companies regarding suitability of the employee for continued employment.

An employer’s obligation to protect its employees from protected-class harassment extends to social media. If your social media policy (you have a social media policy, right?) doesn’t address harassment, and visa versa, you are exposed. And, you need to fix these omissions ASAP. Just ask Nabors Corporate Services.

* Image by ijmaki from Pixabay