A Buffalo company allowed its supervisors and employees to use racist slurs and graffiti to harass African-American co-workers, according to a new lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The suit, in Buffalo federal court, accuses Frontier Hot-Dip Galvanizing of subjecting black employees to a race-based hostile work environment and, when they complained, retaliating against the workers.
The EEOC claims the mistreatment dates back to at least 2011 and includes the frequent and visible use of slurs including the “n” word, “monkey” and “coon,” and graffiti threats using the “n” word.
Frontier, located at 1740 Elmwood Ave., denied the allegations and said the company is looking forward to defending itself against an agency that “displayed extreme hostility towards our company, behaved unprofessionally and exhibited disinterest in the actual facts.”
“The real story here is government overreaching and investigator bias,” the company said in a statement.
Frontier pointed to recent criticism of the EEOC, including a U.S. Senate report that claimed the agency has a history of taking on questionable discrimination cases.
“We have a long and honorable history here in this community and an excellent reputation which we will proudly defend," the company said in its statement.
Frontier, according to the federal agency, also allowed its superintendent to harass a worker of Haitian origin by shouting in the workplace, “We don’t work with terrorists. Only American citizens work here.”
“No one should have to face this kind of horrific harassment,” Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York district office, said in a statement.
In its suit against Frontier, the agency claims that, despite the visible nature of the harassment and the numerous complaints by black employees, the company never stopped it.
Instead, Frontier threatened the complaining employees with termination, according to the suit. And when one of the black workers stood up to a co-worker who called him the “n” word and another derogatory term, the company’s superintendent confronted the black employee with a stick and then fired him.
The agency also claims a second black worker was fired after filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC.
“Employees who file charges of discrimination are heroes who allow EEOC to investigate and eradicate discrimination from their workplaces,” Judy Keenan, EEOC’s New York acting district director, said in a statement.
The EEOC suit is based on a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination based on race or national origin, and retaliation against those who oppose or report it.