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Calling Workers 'Monkeys' Costs Company $250K: EEOC

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on December 03, 2014 8:22 AM

A fueling company at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport where African workers were referred to as "monkeys" has agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a racial harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Swissport Fueling Inc. will also provide training on harassment based upon race or national origin to managers, supervisors, and HR employees, and implement policies prohibiting future harassment, the EEOC announced Tuesday in a statement on its website.

What are the details of the allegations made against the company?

African Workers Repeatedly Referred to as 'Monkeys'

According to the EEOC, a Swissport manager routinely subjected fuelers working for the company from Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and other African countries to racial harassment. This harassment included repeatedly being called "monkeys" both in anger and as a replacement for at least one worker's name.

In addition, the manager made repeated references to slavery, including allegedly telling the workers they were lucky to get paid because "back then, you did not get paid."

According to the EEOC, the workers reported the harassment both verbally and in writing to the company, but the company failed to respond.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for an employer to harass an employee based on his or her race, national origin, gender, or religion. This includes failing to take action to remedy the creation of a hostile work environment.

After failing to reach a pre-litigation settlement regarding the harassment, the EEOC filed a harassment lawsuit against the company in U.S. District Court. Under the terms of the settlement announced Tuesday, the $250,000 will be paid to the workers who suffered the harassment.

Learn more about recognizing and preventing workplace discrimination or harassment at FindLaw's section on Employment Law and Human Resources.

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