EEOC sues local company in racial case
The federal agency that enforces workplace discrimination complaints recently sued Carolina Mattress Guild Inc., accusing the company of subjecting black employees to a racially hostile work environment and unlawfully firing an employee who complained about racial remarks that included the “N-word.”
The Thomasville-based mattress manufacturer and distributor is being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
According to the EEOC complaint, from as early as June of last year through about Aug. 9, 2012, Ricky Clark, a truck loader, as well as other black employees, were repeatedly subjected to unwelcome derogatory racial comments and slurs by a white employee at Carolina Mattress Guild. The comments included repeated use of the “N-word,” the EEOC claims.
“Clark complained to company management, but the harassment continued. Three days after his last complaint, Clark was fired ... in retaliation for his complaints. The suit identified one other black employee who was subjected to the same racial epithet by the white employee,” according to the EEOC.
Carolina Mattress Guild, which has been in business for 22 years, denied the allegations against the company.
“Carolina Mattress Guild was surprised to learn that a lawsuit had been filed alleging a violation of federal law involving Carolina Mattress Guild’s employment practices. Carolina Mattress Guild treats all employees with dignity and is committed to operating a workplace that complies in all respects with the requirements of law,” the company said in a statement to The High Point Enterprise. “Carolina Mattress Guild intends to defend the unfounded allegations of the lawsuit vigorously and is confident that its employment practices will be vindicated in court.”
The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina after first attempting to reach a settlement. The EEOC seeks monetary relief, including back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief and reinstatement for Clark.
“Companies must ensure that they do not allow racial slurs to be used in the workplace, and that they take prompt and effective action in response to complaints of such misconduct,” said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Employers must also remember that retaliation against people who complain about illegal employment discrimination is itself against the law. The EEOC will vigorously enforce these federal laws.”