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EEOC sues crane service provider for for race discrimination, harassment and retaliation

August 28, 2023  By Don Horne

TNT Crane & Rigging, Inc., one of the largest crane service providers in North America, with over 40 branches in the United States and Canada, violated U.S. federal law by subjecting four Black employees to race-based discrimination and harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed in federal court.

The EEOC also charged the company with retaliating against a white employee for raising allegations of race-based discrimination at its Fort Worth, Texas branch.

According to the lawsuit, the four Black employees were subjected to a hostile work environment through the open display of nooses and white supremacy symbols, along with being subjected to derogatory terms, including the n-word, by employees and managers.

Further, a white employee witnessed the racial discrimination and harassment, including a noose in the workplace, and reported the derogatory treatment to management, the EEOC said. However, despite the white employee reporting his concerns to managers, supervisors, and the corporate human resources manager, the company took no effective corrective or remedial actions.

The EEOC also claims that the white employee’s work hours and pay were reduced following his complaints. With no effective action by TNT to change the workplace atmosphere, and the reduction in his hours and pay that followed, the white employee was compelled to resign.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, and further prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who attempt to assert their right to report what they reasonably believe is discriminatory treatment.

The EEOC filed suit in Civil Action No. 4:23-cv-881in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In this case, the EEOC seeks compensatory damages and punitive damages for the four Black employees. Additionally, the EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, as well as reinstatement or front pay for the white employee.

“The allegations in this case echo the disturbing accounts shared during the EEOC’s recent hearing on discrimination and harassment in the construction industry,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “At a time when job opportunities in construction are rapidly growing thanks to historic federal investments, workers face significant harassment and discrimination that can prevent them from getting and keeping jobs in construction. The EEOC will continue to robustly enforce the law to ensure equal opportunity in the construction industry, and every industry.”

“TNT knowingly permitted a work environment filled with racist comments and imagery. No employee should have to work in an environ­ment openly hostile to their race, and no employee should suffer reprisal for objecting to di­scrim­inatory practices,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Brian Hawthorne.  “The EEOC will vigorously defend employees’ right to work in a place free from discrimination and retaliatory conduct.”

“We would hope that after 60 years of statutory protections of federal anti-discrimination laws, we could have moved far beyond the grim and hate-fueled threat messages of nooses and Nazi symbols,” said Dallas EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Canino.  “The U.S. courts, however, remain an effective forum by which we can educate the public and ensure compliance through monetary and injunctive remedies.”

The EEOC held a hearing on discrimination and harassment in the construction industry on May 17, 2022.

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