EEOC Sues Carolina Mattress Guild for Racial Harassment and Retaliation
Thomasville Company Subjected Black Employees to Racial Abuse, Fired One of the Victims for Complaining, Federal Agency Charges
Carolina Mattress Guild, Inc., a Thomasville, N.C.-based mattress manufacturer and distributor, subjected black employees to a racially hostile work environment and unlawfully fired the employee who complained about racial comments, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a recently filed lawsuit.
According to the EEOC's complaint, from as early as June 2012 through about Aug. 9, 2012, Ricky Clark, a truck loader, as well as other black employees, were repeatedly subjected to unwelcome derogatory racial comments and slurs by a white employee at the Carolina Mattress Guild facility. The comments included repeated use of the "N-word." Clark complained to company management, but the harassment continued. Three days after his last complaint, Clark was fired, the EEOC charged, in retaliation for his complaints. The suit identified one other black employee who was subjected to the same racial epithet by the white employee.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from allowing a racially hostile work environment to exist in the workplace, and also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who oppose such discriminatory conduct. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Carolina Mattress Guild, Inc, Case No. 1:13-CV-00706) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief, including back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief and reinstatement for Clark.
"Companies must ensure that they do not allow racial slurs to be used in the workplace, and that they take prompt and effective action in response to complaints of such misconduct," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "Employers must also remember that retaliation against people who complain about illegal employment discrimination is itself against the law. The EEOC will vigorously enforce these federal laws."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.