Professional Building Systems Subjected Black Employees to Racist Slurs, Graffiti and Nooses

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today that Professional Building Systems of North Carolina, LLC, violated federal law by subjecting African American employees to a racially hostile work environment. Professional Building Systems builds custom modular homes in two locations including at its facilities in Middleburg, Pa., and Mount Gilead, N.C., where the racial harassment occurred.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, from around July 2005 to around early 2008, black employees were subjected to egregious racial harassment while employed at Professional Building Systems. African American employees were subjected to racist abuse, which included nooses and racially offensive drawings that depicted blacks and the Ku Klux Klan. Black employees were also subjected to racial slurs, including use of the racial epithet “n----r.” Most of the harassment was perpetrated by one of the managers of the Mount Gilead facility.

Although the employees complained about the racial harassment, the EEOC said, Professional Building Systems failed to take action to stop or prevent further harassment. The agency brought suit on behalf of Efird Cato, Albert Davis, Torrence Funderburk, Scottie O’Nell Green, Rodney Medley, and Michael Scott, who filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC, as well as a group of similarly situated black employees.

Racial harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (Civil Action No. 1:09-cv-00617) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with the company. The agency seeks compensatory and punitive damages for all aggrieved employees, as well as injunctive relief.

“Although the EEOC has made marked progress under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act toward eliminating racial harassment and discrimination in the workplace, cases like this serve as painful reminders that severe racist behavior still exists,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the agency’s Charlotte District. “This agency will continue to carry out its mission to eliminate discrimination in the workplace, and to ensure that employers who condone racial harassment make amends to aggrieved employees.”

Tina Burnside, supervisory trial attorney in the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, added, “Employees should not have to be subjected to racial slurs, racial graffiti and nooses. In particular, a noose is a historic symbol of racial terror used to intimidate blacks, and cannot be tolerated in the workplace.”