Salem Electric Company Sued By EEOC For Race Discrimination

Company Fired Black Employee Because of His Race, EEOC Charges

WINSTON-SALEM , N.C. – A Winston-Salem, N.C. –based, family-owned and operated electric company discriminated against a black electrician when it fired him because of his race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, around Dec. 17, 2007, Salem Electric Company terminated Rodney Tonkins’ employment as a journeyman electrician, alleging that he was responsible for a crew of employees who damaged light fixtures on a light installation project. The EEOC contends in the suit that as a journeyman electrician, Tonkins did not supervise work crews and therefore was not responsible for the damaged light fixtures. Instead, according to the EEOC’s complaint, the company’s superintendent and foreman, both white, were in charge of the project and the crew workers. Neither of those individuals, nor the non-black employees who actually caused the damage to the light fixtures, was terminated.

Discrimination on the basis of race 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, Winston-Salem Division (EEOC v. Salem Electric Company, Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-00119), after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. In its suit, the EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Tonkins. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief prohibiting Salem Electric from engaging in further racial discrimination.

“This case is a reminder to employers that fair and equal treatment of its employees must be applied in all phases of employment, including addressing performance concerns,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Lynette A. Barnes of the agency’s Charlotte District Office. “The EEOC will continue to vigorously protect the rights of workers who are targeted for adverse treatment based on race or other illegal factors.”

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