Professional Building Systems Of North Carolina To Pay $118,000 To Settle Race Harassment Case

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Professional Building Systems of North Carolina, LLC, of Mt. Gilead, N.C., will pay $118,000to six African American employees who filed charges of racial harassment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and six more African Americans who were also subjected to racial harassment, the agency announced today. Additionally, the company agreed to significant non-monetary relief to settle the lawsuit brought by the EEOC.

The EEOC brought the lawsuit against Professional Building Systems after it had identified at least 12 black employees who had been subjected to racial harassment there. According to the EEOC’s complaint, at various times between mid-2005 and 2008, black employees were subjected to racial harassment that involved the creation and display of nooses; references to black employees as “boy” and by the "N-word”; and racially offensive pictures such as a picture that depicted the Ku Klux Klan looking down a well at a black man. In its complaint, the EEOC alleged that the managers of Professional Building Systems not only knew about the harassment and took no action to stop or prevent it, but also that a manager was one of the perpetrators of the harassment.

Racial harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Professional Building Systems of North Carolina, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:09-cv-00617), after attempting to reach a voluntary settle­ment with Professional Building Systems. Thereafter, six of the harassment victims intervened in the EEOC’s lawsuit via private counsel.

“Make no mistake: Almost fifty years after the passage of landmark civil rights laws, nooses and racial epithets like the “N-word” are still being used to ridicule and intimidate in the work­place,” said Acting EEOC Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “The EEOC will forcefully fight this reprehensible and racist conduct wherever we find it, and we’ll insist on securing substantial relief for victims, as we did in this case.”

In addition to monetary damages, the consent decree resolving the case provides for injunctive relief to prevent Professional Building Systems from maintaining a racially hostile work environment or engaging in retaliation under Title VII. The decree also requires the company to post its policy against racial harassment; distribute the policy to employees; provide annual, company-wide training on racial harassment; eliminate all existing nooses or racial epithets, if any, from its facility; and report future verbal or written complaints of racial harassment.

“Nooses are symbols of hate, prejudice, and discrimination, which should not and will not be tolerated in the workplace,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “It is especially inexcusable when managers perpetrate racial harassment against their sub­ordinates or know about racial harassment and fail to address it. EEOC will continue its efforts to eliminate racial harassment in the workplace on behalf of harassment victims.”

Tina Burnside, supervisory trial attorney in the EEOC’s Charlotte District, added, “The EEOC is pleased that the consent decree includes injunctive measures designed to ensure that black employ­ees are no longer subjected to racial harassment and can work in an environment free of nooses and racial graffiti.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s website at www.eeoc.gov.

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