Hispanic Workers Were Singled Out for Harassment, Agency Charged
DALLAS - Air Express International, USA, Inc. and Danzas Corporation, doing business as DHL Global Forwarding, will pay $201,000 to nine employees and provide other significant relief to settle a national origin hostile environment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The settlement, announced today, resolves the EEOC's and Plaintiff-Intervenor Carlos Villanueva's claims against DHL Global. The EEOC charged DHL Global with subjecting a class of Hispanic employees to national origin discrimination. The EEOC's suit also resolved a retaliation claim by one non-Hispanic employee who was allegedly fired for a brief time after he reported the treatment of Hispanic employees.
According to the EEOC's suit, Case No. 3:11-cv-02581 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, Hispanic employees at DHL's Dallas warehouse were constantly subjected to taunts and derogatory names such as "wetback," "beaner," "stupid Mexican" and "Puerto Rican b---h". According to the EEOC, Hispanic workers, who included persons of Mexican, Salvadoran and Puerto Rican heritage, were often ridiculed by DHL personnel with demeaning slurs which included referring to the Salvadoran worker as a "salvatrucha," a term referring to a gangster. Other workers were identified with derogatory stereotypes by being told they should be outside the facility "mowing the grass" or that their "homies" were on a television show about prison. The EEOC further asserts that company supervisors made harsh admonitions to bilingual employees about use of their Spanish language on the job. The agency asserts that these admonitions were motivated by prejudice, unnecessary and unrelated to the effective performance of the job duties.
The EEOC complained that DHL Global officials ignored the complaints of employees even after the discriminatory conduct was reported to management. The EEOC's suit also alleged that DHL Global retaliated against Troy Petty, a union steward, by firing him after he reported the mistreatment of Hispanic employees to DHL officials on numerous occasions. Petty was ultimately returned to work and continues to be employed with the other affected employees.
"Intimidation and ridicule based on a worker's ethnicity isn't just dehumanizing, it's un-American," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Joel Clark. "Employers must respond immediately to the multiple reports of harassment and eliminate the problems so as not to permit an atmosphere of contempt and mockery."
National origin discrimination in the workplace, including national origin harassment, and retaliation for complaining about it, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC's Dallas District Office, said, "Bullying Hispanic workers for speaking a language other than English is a distinct form of discrimination, which, when coupled with ethnic slurs, is clearly motivated by prejudice and national origin animus. Sometimes job discrimination isn't just about hiring, firing or promotion; it's about an employer promoting disharmony and disrespect through an unhealthy work environment."
The three-year consent decree settling the case, signed by Judge Sam A. Lindsay on Nov. 30, provides for a permanent injunction against DHL Global that prohibits the company from further discriminating against any employee on the basis of national origin, harassing any employee on the basis of national origin or retaliating in any way against any person because of opposition to any practice declared unlawful by Title VII. DHL Global will pay $201,000 in monetary relief and develop strong policies to respond to reports of national origin discrimination. In addition, DHL Global will conduct annual anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training, which will include instruction on the prevention of national origin harassment in the workplace. The training will also advise employees of the consequences imposed for violating federal anti-discrimination law. Each new hire will be provided a copy of DHL Global's non-discrimination policy, and the company will provide copies of its anti-harassment policies in both English and Spanish to its employees.
As part of the settlement, EEOC will monitor compliance with the consent decree. DHL will provide EEOC a log of all employee complaints alleging national origin discrimination or retaliation. DHL also agreed to impose discipline -- up to and including termination, suspension without pay or demotion upon anyone found to have engaged in national origin discrimination.
Janet V. Elizondo, director of the EEOC's Dallas District Office, said, "Employers should not characterize persons of various Hispanic national origins as though they are all likely to be non-citizens. Subjecting employees to personal and degrading attacks based on their ethnicity, heritage or culture does not make for good business. We are very pleased with the resolution in this case, which is forward-looking and allows these men to continue in their jobs free of insults and intimidation."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.