Taylor Shellfish to Pay $160,000 To Settle EEOC Racial Harassment Suit
Black Mechanic Forced to Quit After Enduring Slurs, Stereotypes and Retaliation, Says Federal Agency
The largest producer of farmed shellfish in the United States, Taylor Shellfish, will pay $160,000 and implement other relief to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency recently announced.
According to the EEOC's suit, a black maintenance mechanic at the Taylor Shellfish's Samish Bay Farm faced repeated demeaning comments about his race, including the use of the "N word," "spook" and "boy." His direct supervisor commented that his father used to run "your kind" out of town. When the mechanic reported this behavior to management, the supervisor retaliated against him and Taylor Shellfish simply advised him to "put his head down and do what he was told," the EEOC said. After being wrongly accused and disciplined for insubordination, he felt he had no other choice but to quit his job.
Racial harassment and retaliation violate Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (EEOC v. Taylor Shellfish Company, Inc., 2:16-CV-01517), after an investigation by EEOC Investigator Elizabeth Cannon and after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.
Under the consent decree resolving this case, Taylor Shellfish has agreed to implement new policies, conduct extensive training for employees and management, post an anti-discrimination notice at the workplace and report compliance to the EEOC for a three-year period.
"This case served as an appalling reminder of the challenges that black individuals continue to face in the United States," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Teri Healy. "Just last week, our office filed suit concerning racial harassment in nearby Oak Harbor, where the harassers used similar racially charged terms. We want to send a clear message to employers that this kind of behavior is inexcusable and must not be tolerated in the workplace."
Nancy Sienko, Seattle field director for the EEOC's San Francisco District, added, "Let us be clear: Employers must take swift action to end harassment. Employees who encounter similarly charged comments and stereotyping should know that the EEOC will investigate workplace abuses fully."
Shelton, Wash.-based Taylor Shellfish employs approximately 500 people and operates hatchery and nursery facilities as well as restaurants and bars along the west coast of the United States and in British Columbia.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.