Briggs Equipment Settles EEOC Race Discrimination Suit

LAREDO, Texas – Briggs Equipment, Inc., a Dallas-based company and one of North America’s largest industrial and construction equipment distributors, will pay a former employee $112,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit, Civil Action No. 5:10-CV-00108, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Laredo, charged that Briggs subjected Bobby Wysong to unlawful discrimination when it terminated him from his position as a technician because of his race, black. The EEOC further alleged that Briggs subjected Wysong to a racially hostile work environment. Mario Rodriguez, a management official for Briggs who had direct supervisory authority over Wysong, blatantly referred to Wysong, among other things, as a “n----r,” “mayate” (a racial epithet against blacks widely used in South Texas), “slave” and “dark horse” in conjunction with expressly stating he wanted Wysong fired. Rodriguez himself admitted to using the racial slur “n----r” at work and several witnesses corroborated that he routinely used racist epithets and made racist jokes at the workplace.

Further, the EEOC said, when Wysong was wrongfully discharged, he lost his company medical insurance, after which he incurred substantial medical bills due to orthopedic surgery.

Racial harassment -- including slurs and offensive or derogatory comments -- as well as discharge due to race violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office determined that Briggs had violated Title VII and after it tried to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the Commission’s conciliation process.

In the consent decree settling the suit, besides the monetary relief of $112,000, Briggs also agreed to negotiate and pay Wysong’s medical bills he incurred due to the loss of his health insurance, which have an approximate value of $273,000. Briggs agreed to comply in the future with Title VII and to provide training regarding Title VII to current employees assigned to work at the Briggs facility at Laredo. Briggs further agreed to modify its written anti-discrimination policy, which specifically addresses race discrimination.

“We are very pleased with the resolution of this case,” said Eduardo Juarez, senior trial attorney of the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “Not only have we obtained significant financial relief for Bobby Wysong, the employment practices that Briggs uses will be greatly improved. No one should have to put up with racial abuse in their place of work – or, even worse, losing his livelihood because of racism. Smart employers can prevent racial harassment by not only promulgating anti-discrimination policies but also making such policies effective through regular training and monitoring.”

Supervisory Trial Attorney Judith G. Taylor of the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office said, “We commend Briggs for acknowledging the importance of preventing discriminatory practices and that employees have the right to work in an environment that is free from racial harassment.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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