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N.C. Trucking Firm to Pay $243,000 for Racial Slurs and Harassment

Contonius Gill and Robert Floyd, Jr., were awarded more than $243,000 and injunctive relief against A.C. Widenhouse, Inc., a Concord-based North Carolina trucking company for race harassment and retaliation, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the judgment March 8. The EEOC filed the lawsuit on the men’s behalf.

Among the company’s transgressions were derogatory racial comments and slurs by the general manager, the firm’s dispatcher, a number of mechanics and other truck drivers. All of them are white. The harassment began in May 2007 and continued through at least June 2008, according to the complaint.

The “N” word, “monkey” and “boy” were among the slurs against Gill. He testified that at one point a co-worker came towards him with a noose and said, “This is for you. Do you want to hang from the family tree?”

White employees, Gill testified, asked him if he wanted to be their “coon” in a “coon hunt.” Gill also testified that he was fired because he complained about racial harassment and because he is African-American.

The other plaintiff, Floyd, Jr., was hired in 2005 and became the company’s first African-American worker. He said that the firm’s general manager told him he was the company’s “token black.” He endured racial slurs by the company manager and white employees.

“Don’t find a noose with your name on it,” he testified that the general manager warned him. The manager would talk about his “friends” visiting Floyd in the middle of the night.

Even after complaining to the company’s dispatcher and the general manager, the harassment persisted, according to the suit.

A Winston-Salem jury of eight unanimously voted to find that Gill and Floyd Jr., had been harassed because of their race. They ruled that the EEOC should receive $50,000 on behalf of Floyd. They ruled that Gill should recover $193,509 in compensatory and punitive damages, back pay and pre-judgment interest.

The court ruled that A.C. Widenhouse could not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race or retaliate against an employee for practices deemed against the law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, to conduct racial harassment, or to retaliate against an employee who complains about racial harassment.

The EEOC first tried to reach a voluntary settlement with the company. When that failed, the agency filed suit — Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. A.C, Widenhouse, Inc. 1:11-cv-00498 — in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

It is illegal for anyone to be harassed in the workplace or discriminated against based on race, sex and/or religious beliefs. If you’ve suffered because of wrongful harassment in the workplace, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against your employer and those committing the harassment. To learn more, contact a North Carolina personal injury lawyer at Kelly & West today. We represent individuals in Raleigh and throughout the state.


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