According to a lawsuit filed by the EEOC, employees at AK Steel Corporation endured a widespread racist and threatening displays for years. These included racial slurs and epithets, open displays of Ku Klux Klan videos in the employee break area and the display of nooses and swastikas in work areas open to African-American employees. Employees also circulated literature of the Populist Party, headed by candidate David Duke, a KKK leader.
Some of the graffiti included threats, including a message to “kill” blacks and insulting threats. There was also Nazi graffiti, including statements such as “I love Adolf.”
The racially-charged climate was so pervasive that the EEOC said AK Steel managers had independent knowledge of the events, aside from any complaints.
AK Steel is a Fortune 500 company based in Middletown, Ohio that produces carbon steel and stainless steel products. The company had nearly $6 billion in sales last year and has major plants and offices in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
The $600,000 goes to 7 AK Steel employees, plus the estate of Gerald Patterson. Patterson originally filed the suit, but died before it was settled. In addition, all AK Steele employees will receive annual training to recognize and prevent discrimination based on race.
Gerald Patterson was hired by AK Steel in 1999, and filed the suit in 2003. Patterson was one of only about 20 black employees out of 1,950 at the Butler plant.
“The racial harassment alleged in this case, including the use of derogatory ethnic terms, nooses displayed in the work environment and disciplining those who complained of race discrimination, represents some of the most severe misconduct this office has seen,” said EEOC Attorney Jacqueline McNair. “Through the consent decree resolving this case, EEOC will monitor AK Steel’s treatment of employees to ensure a workplace environment free of harassment and race discrimination. Further, we believe the sizable monetary relief and the proposed training of employees on anti-discrimination policies may serve as a deterrent to future acts of blatant racism.”
The company denies any wrongdoing and says they are settling the case merely to avoid a protracted and expensive lawsuit against the federal government.
Shortly after Patterson filed the suit, AK Steel announced the departure of Richard Wardrop, Jr., the company’s former Chairman and CEO. Wardrop’s severance package was up to $51.7 million, according to an SEC filing. In addition, President John Hritz received a severance package of $ 11 million.
The company also reported that 475 workers had been laid off, including 200 in Butler.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal to deny any person employment due to race, color, sex, religion or national origin. That includes providing a work environment free from illegal harassment and different treatment based on race. In addition, Title VII recognizes that a company that creates an intolerable environment essentially forces the employee to resign. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against someone because he or she has made a complaint of illegal discrimination.
While the allegations of discrimination at AK Steel are unusually severe, they are not the only company recently accused of discrimination based on race.
In January, major retailer Target Corp. paid $775,000 for racial harassment to settle a suit. The suit alleged that Target Violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by creating a racially hostile work environment at the Springfield, Pennsylvania Target store.
Target operates more than 1,500 stores in 47 states. As part of the settlement, Target agreed to train employees at the Springfield store.
In the suit, the EEOC said that Michael Hill was an apprentice in training to become a store manager. He was subjected to racial harassment by a white store manager. When Hill complained, he was retaliated against, leaving him no choice but to resign.
“We are pleased that the parties could reach an amicable resolution of this matter,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jacqueline McNair. “We expect the proposed training and emphasis on anti-discrimination policies to create a more employee-friendly work environment at Target’s facility.”
All of the companies mentioned in this article deny any wrongdoing.
While some states defer to federal civil rights law, Pennsylvania sexual discrimination law in the workplace is outlined by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. This act makes sexual discrimination in the workplace illegal.
Under this Act, an “employer” is anyone who employs four or people and includes the State of Pennsylvania and school districts. It excludes religious, fraternal or charitable associations unless they are funded (even in part) by the government. This differs from the federal laws because Title VII applies only to those employers who have fifteen or more employees. “Employees,” according to the State of Pennsylvania, are those who are employed by employers as defined above except for those in domestic or agricultural service, those who live at the employer’s residence as part of the employment and those who are employed by their parent, spouse or child.
According to the law, employers cannot make decisions in terms of a person’s hiring, firing, promoting or determining job terms, privileges or compensations on the basis of sex.
Pennsylvania employees who want to file a complaint against their employers can do so within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act by contacting the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
After you file your complaint, an investigator will begin collecting information relevant to your case and then will use that information to decide whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe that your rights have been violated.
If the investigator finds reasonable cause, you and your employer will enter a settlement phase. If you are unable to negotiate a settlement, the Commission will take your case to a public hearing.
If, instead of going through the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, you want to go through the state or federal courts, you will first need to file a request with the EEOC or the Commission for a “Right to Sue” letter.
No matter which course of action you choose, it’s important that you know your rights and responsibilities. Your employer should have a Pennsylvania Complete Labor Law Poster available in the workplace.
While researching the Pennsylvania state discrimination posters I found that Pennsylvania is the same as most of the other states in the U.S. Under Pennsylvania and federal law, employers who are subject to follow the anti-discrimination laws must post Pennsylvania state discrimination posters in the workplace. These posters contain valuable information about how employees can and can’t be treated while at work. They also contain information about the type of discrimination that isn’t allowed in the workplace.
Workers in Pennsylvania can’t be discriminated against because of their race, religion, ancestry, color, age (if forty or over), sex, ancestry, national origin, a disability not related to the job, association with a disabled person, willingness or refusal to have an abortion or become sterile, and possession of a diploma from passing a GED test. A qualified person can’t be denied a job or a promotion; he/she can’t be fired, demoted, or treated unfairly in any other way because of one of the above reasons.
The Pennsylvania state discrimination posters also explain what a person should do if he/she falls victim to discrimination. The alleged victim should file a complaint with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. This complaint must be filed within one hundred and eighty days from the time of the last incident of discrimination. It can be filed with one of the Commission’s regional offices in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or Harrisburg.
Most workplaces in Pennsylvania are required to post the Pennsylvania state discrimination posters. These posters must be placed in an area that has plenty of lighting and where employees are known to frequent. The Pennsylvania state discrimination posters can’t be removed, defaced, covered-up, or destroyed in any way. It is against the law for a person to perform any of these actions. It’s also against the law for an employer to fail to display the Pennsylvania discrimination posters in an appropriate area.
During my research into discrimination cases, I found that most states have the same practices. This is because the states must follow federal guidelines when it comes to discrimination.
The discrimination clause of Pennsylvania is outlined in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which dictates that it is against the law for an employer or potential employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age (if 40 and above), sex, national origin, non-job related disability, known association with a disabled individuals, possession of a GED diploma, or willingness or refusal to participate in abortion or sterilization.
If an employee of a company in Pennsylvania feels that he or she has been discriminated against, then the employee needs to file a claim with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) or with the Federal agency known as the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These two agencies, as in many states, have a work-sharing agreement, which means that you only need to file a claim with one agency to have it cross filed with the other.
If the employer is a smaller company of between 4-14 employees, then the employer is not covered by Federal law, but is still covered by Pennsylvania law. Therefore, for a smaller organization, participants need to file with the PHRC. The Federal law only takes action on cases where the employer has 15 or more employees.
To file a claim with the state government, you must file in the county where the discrimination occurred; not in the county where you reside. You must file within 180 days of the discrimination if you are filing with the PHRC or within 300 days with the EEOC. It is not necessary to have an attorney file with you, but it may be recommended for your piece of mind and ease of movement with the system.
The Pennsylvania Complete Labor Law poster is available with the most current state law information including discrimination. It also reflects all the federal laws as well.