June 20, 2007 in Business

Racial slurs alleged in suit

By The Spokesman-Review

The foreman at a Coeur d’Alene company used racial slurs and told racist jokes in the presence of two African-American employees, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The suit was filed on behalf of Shawn Fletcher and his nephew, Richard Fletcher, who worked at Coeur d’Alene Paving Inc. during the 2005 construction season. According to the lawsuit, the two men reported the foreman’s harassing behavior to the company’s owners, but no action was taken.

“Everyone knew about the harassment — it was a small workforce,” said Shawn Fletcher in a prepared statement. “But the management refused to put a stop to it. Hearing those slurs every day was horrible, but the fact that management didn’t take it seriously made the situation even worse.”

Shawn Fletcher is a resident of Moses Lake, Wash., and Richard Fletcher lives in Spokane, the Associated Press reported.

A woman who answered the phone Tuesday at Coeur d’Alene Paving said company officials had no comment.

The suit seeks monetary damages for the Fletchers, plus company training on anti-discrimination laws and other relief. Earlier efforts to reach a voluntary settlement with the company were not successful, according to EEOC attorneys.

Discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin violates the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Employers have a duty to keep their work sites free from racial harassment,” William Tamayo, an EEOC regional attorney in San Francisco, said in a statement. “They need to make it clear that racial slurs and epithets will not be tolerated.”

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