WRS Compass, a Tampa-based environmental cleanup company, must pay $2.75 million to resolve a race discrimination case brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency recently announced.
The EEOC charged that seven black workers at a WRS worksite in Lake Calumet, Illinois, were subjected to a “campaign of harassment” including hangman’s nooses, persistent racial slurs, unfavorable equipment assignments, and physical threats from coworkers, including a foreman. One white worker reportedly used his backhoe to knock off a black worker’s hard hat. When two workers complained, they were laid off, the agency said. Four white workers who associated with black employees were also reportedly physically threatened and called derogatory names.
In a ruling denying summary judgment to WRS, an Illinois district judge wrote, “It is undisputed that WRS did not provide any harassment training to employees (whether union or management) at the Lake Calumet site and did not give its employees a phone number to contact the company’s health and safety officer or human resources department.”
WRS argued that it had an antiharassment policy in force, but the judge noted that the company did not post it at the worksite until the day after a noose appeared on a truck. The judge found that a jury could conclude that “WRS, by allowing its harassment policy to gather dust in a corporate office, instead of being distributed to employees, did not take reasonable care to prevent harassment.”