$201,000 Settlement in National Origin Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit Against DHL Global Forwarding, Training Ordered

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Question:  Would national origin anti-harassment training have prevented this case?  See our trainings at http://www.hrclassroom.com.

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 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.

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. 

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.

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