A new race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against commerce remanufacturer PRC Industries (PRC) warns other businesses of the increased need to use care to protect their own organizations against employment discrimination and retaliation charges under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal laws given the heightened proactivity of the Biden Administration led EEOC in investigation and prosecuting these types of complaints.
PRC Race Suit
According to EEOC’s complaint in EEOC v PRC Industries, Inc. Corp, Case No. 3-27-2023 JJO-VSC, two Black workers, a married couple hired in January 2020 to work at PRC’s Reno, Nevada repair facility faced constant racial taunts and slurs, including the ‘n-word,’ from their supervisors, a brother and sister. The couple also observed the sibling supervisors routinely denigrating other Black employees due to their race. The complaint charges this conduct occurred openly, in front of co-workers and managers. Senior personnel, including a site manager and a vice president, failed to take adequate steps to curb the misconduct, despite being put on notice of the racial harassment. In late-May 2020, when the couple continued to report ongoing offensive treatment, they were fired via text message by one of the supervisors accused of harassment.
The EEOC charges this alleged conduct of tolerating racial harassment and firing the workers for complaining to the EEOC about it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits harassment due to race and requires employers to take prompt action to investigate and stop the misconduct after they receive notice of it.
The EEOC lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada seeks compensatory and punitive damages, back pay and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.
EEOC Enforcement Warn Other Businesses
The EEOC press release on the lawsuit warns other businesses and their leaders against committing or tolerating similar or other prohibited discrimination or retaliation.
“Leaders set company culture by the language and conduct they choose to tolerate as well as the behavior they model,” said EEOC San Francisco District Director Nancy Sienko. “Federal civil rights laws mandate that employers act promptly and effectively to stop race-based harassment, and the EEOC will hold employers accountable if they fail to meet their obligations.”
The PRC lawsuit is one of the latest in an accelerating civil rights and other employment discrimination and retaliation investigations, charges, and lawsuits the EEOC is taking in response to the proactive civil rights agenda of the Biden Administration.
In pursuit of its mission to advance equal employment opportunity, the EEOC focused on several major areas during FY 2022, including aggressive educational outreach, addressing systemic discrimination, advancing racial justice in the workplace, enforcing pay equity, and addressing the use of artificial intelligence in employment decisions.
Among other things, the EEOC 2022 Annual Performance Report (APR) (“2022 Data”) shows EEOC has seen an uptick in complaints filed by workers. In Fiscal Year (“FY”) 2022, the agency received 73,485 new discrimination charges, which represents an increase of almost 20% when compared to the previous fiscal year. The agency also handled more than 475,000 calls —an 18% increase from FY 2021—and managed 32% more emails from the public than the previous year.
To help manage the increased demand and strengthen the agency’s ability to prevent and remedy employment discrimination, the EEOC specifically focused on growing its workforce to meet growing requests for its assistance by filling 352 new positions and 500 total staff vacancies in FY 2022, the majority of which were in frontline positions.
The effects of this proactivity is confirmed by the 2022 EEOC enforcement data. The agency marked several significant accomplishments in FY 2022.
- Obtained more than $513 million in monetary benefits for victims of discrimination, an increase from the previous fiscal year;
- Resolved over 65,000 charges of discrimination.
Meanwhile in the federal sector, the EEOC:
- Conducted more than 3,000 free outreach events reaching almost 220,000 individuals.
- Resolved 9,336 hearings;
- Recovered more than $132 million for federal workers and applicants; and
- Significantly reduced the federal hearing inventory by 25% from FY 2021 to FY 2022
EEOC appears to be continuing its aggressive enforcement into 2023. In March, 2023 alone, for instance, the EEOC has announced the following discrimination and retaliation actions
These and other developments, send a strong message to businesses and business leaders to use their compliance and employment, discrimination and retaliation compliance, and risk management efforts.￼ No b
- EEOC Sues Total Systems Services for Disability Discrimination and Retaliation;
- EEOC Sues Walmart for Disability Discrimination;
- Federal Court Awards More Than $2.6 Million to EEOC Against Green JobWorks LLC ;
- EEOC Sues Otis Elevator Company for Disability Discrimination;
- EEOC Scores Summary Judgment Win Against UPS in Disability Discrimination Case;
- ResourceMFG to Pay $75,000 to Settle EEOC National Origin Discrimination Suit;
- DHI Group, Inc. Conciliates EEOC National Origin Discrimination Finding;
- EEOC Sues Subway Franchises for Unlawful Employment Practices on the Basis of Race and Color;
- EEOC Sues Papa John’s Pizza for Disability Discrimination;
- EEOC Sues Innovative Services NW for Disability Discrimination;
- Exxon Mobil Corporation Sued by EEOC for Race Discrimination; and
- Owners and Managers of Kingston Properties Pay $240,000 in Sex Harassment Settlement.
In the face of these developments, businesses and their leaders should move quickly to audit, their current compliance and risk as well as manage their exposures.
In assessing pre-existing risk, businesses should take in to count the likelihood that compliance and operations may have been disrupted during the COVID healthcare emergency. Additional difficulties in investigating and defending risk also may arise because of turnover in management or other staffing. In light of these and other challenges, many businesses may wish to consider acquiring or increasing their employment practices liability as a backstop against these risks.
We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.
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About the Author
Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 35+ years of workforce and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, scholarship and thought leadership.
A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 35 year career has focused heavily on working with employer and other staffing and workforce organizations, health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. As an ongoing component of this work, she regularly advises, represents and defends employers, PEOs, staffing, employee leasing and other businesses about worker compensation, payroll and other tax, wage and hour and other compensation and employee benefit, occupational health and safety, contracting, compliance, risk management and other internal and external controls in a wide range of areas and has published and spoken extensively on these concerns. She also has decades of regulatory and other government affairs experience with these concerns including defending these and other businesses before the IRS, EBSA, WHD, EEOC, OCR, HHS, state labor, insurance, and other authorities, and evaluating and responding to federal, state and local statutory, regulatory and enforcement actions by federal and state legislators and regulators. A prolific author and popular speaker, Ms. Stamer also is widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on workforce, compensation, and other operations, risk management, compliance and regulatory and public affairs concerns.
For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.
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