1.2 Million Reasons to Fight Harassment

By Jon Hyman

Dec. 8, 2014

According to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission press release, a Wyoming federal judge has approved a $1.2 million settlement with three well-servicing companies on behalf of a dozen employees who claimed that they suffered regular and repeated racially derogatory comments and jokes:

Employees regularly used terms like “wetback” and “beaner” to refer to Hispanic employees, “wagon burner” to refer to Native American employees, and the “N-word” to refer to black employees…. According to the EEOC’s amended complaint, minority employees on the rigs regularly heard racist terms … such as “n—-r-rigging” and telling employees to “n—-r a pipe down” were also common.

Said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez, “This type of outrageous discrimination sadly still exists. Employers in the oil and gas industry should heed this settlement and renew their efforts to ensure that employees are treated equally regardless of race or national origin.” EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill added, “The type of blatant racist conduct alleged in this case has no place in the workplace. We believe that our lawsuit and the significant relief obtained in this settlement will send the message, not only to the defendants, but to the entire industry that the EEOC will not this kind of misconduct – or retaliation for complaining about it.”

Over the past couple of weeks, our country has been hyper-focused on race. It’s pathetic that employees still have to suffer workplaces with any degree of racism. While I believe that not every mishandled situation is because of race, this EEOC settlement shows that we still have a ways to go with race relations, and employers that shirk or ignore their responsibilities in this regard do so at their peril.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at


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