A Houston manufacturer of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) equipment has agreed to pay a former employee $120,000 and provide other relief to settle a retaliatory discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged Downhole Technology LLC with violating federal law when it retaliated against employee Kenneth Echols after he complained that he had been racially harassed.
Echols, who is African-American, reported that his coworkers had used a white hood — evocative of the type used by the Ku Klux Klan — to intimidate, ridicule, and insult him. The EEOC alleged that in response to Echols’s complaint, the company told him that the incident was meant as a joke. The company then fired Echols for refusing to sign a declaration stating that it had adequately responded to his complaint regarding the incident.
Before reporting the incident, Echols’s record with the company was unblemished, the EEOC said.
The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Civil Action No. 4:17-CV-00574) in the Houston Division of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the EEOC and the company resolved the claim, which led to the two-year consent decree announced today.
Under that decree, Downhole Technology will pay Echols $120,000 in monetary relief and will provide a variety of other, non-monetary relief. For instance, the decree requires that Downhole train its employees, including its supervisors, on the requirements imposed by anti-discrimination and harassment laws, and also educate them about the history of hate groups, their symbols and the harm they cause to others.
Downhole will also revamp its anti-discrimination policy and establish a toll-free telephone number through which employees will be able to report discrimination and harassment.
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