A federal jury in North Carolina has awarded over $243,000 to two former A.C. Widenhouse employees, both African-American, who were subject to a racially hostile work environment including ongoing harassment and offensive racial slurs.
From May 2007 through June 2008, Contonius Gill, who worked as a truck driver at the time, testified that he repeatedly experienced derogatory remarks from a number of his white coworkers.
He identified the general manager, who was also his supervisor, the company’s dispatcher, several mechanics and other truck drivers as the offenders. According to Gill’s testimony, they referenced him as the “N” word, “monkey,” “coon” and “boy.”
Gill also told the court that on one occasion, he was approached by a co-worker with a noose who said to him, “This is for you. Do you want to hang from the family tree?”
Another A.C. Wiedenhouse employee, Robert Floyd, testified that he was also subject to recurring racial discrimination by the general manager and other white employees.
When he was hired in 2005, Floyd was the only African-African working at the company. According to Floyd’s testimony, the general manager said he was the company’s “token black” and told him “don’t find a noose with your name on it.”
He also talked about having some of his “friends” visit Floyd in the middle of the night. Both Gill and Floyd said they complained about the unjust treatment a number of times, but the company allegedly did nothing to stop the harassment.
With less than an hour of deliberation, a Winston-Salem jury of eight returned a unanimous verdict finding that Gill and Floyd, Jr. had been harassed because of their race, and that Gill had been fired because of his race and in retaliation for complaining about racial harassment.
Regional Attorney for the EEOC, Lynette A. Barnes said, “The court’s affirmation of this verdict sends a strong message to employers. First the jury, and now the appellate court, spoke to this employer loud and clear – racial harassment will not be tolerated.”
The federal court ruled A.C. Widenhouse owes Floyd $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. Gill is entitled to $193,509 in compensatory and punitive damages, back pay, and pre-judgement interest. Sources: www.eeoc.gov www.businessinsurance.com