Friday, January 25, 2008

Henredon settles racial harassment lawsuit

Agrees to pay $465,000 and take other steps

HIGH POINT — Henredon Furniture has agreed to pay $465,000 and take remedial action to settle a racial harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency reported Thursday.

The EEOC said it brought the suit on behalf of African-American employees who were subjected to a persistent racially hostile work environment at the High Point plant of Henredon, a division of Furniture Brands International.

A Furniture Brands spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the EEOC, from about 1998 through January 2006, African-American employees at the plant were subjected to racial slurs and name calling — including the “N” word — as well as threats by hangman’s nooses that were displayed. The suit alleged that the harassment occurred almost daily.

“This case is the latest indicator that racial harassment in general, and nooses in particular, remain persistent problems at some job sites nationwide,” said EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp. “It’s time for corporate America to be more proactive in preventing and eliminating racist behavior in the workplace.”

The $465,000 in compensatory damages will be divided among seven class members cited in the lawsuit. The settlement also includes a three-year consent decree that enjoins Henredon from engaging in racial harassment or retaliation, requires anti-discrimination training, requires the posting of a notice about the settlement, and requires the company to report complaints of racial harassment to the EEOC for monitoring.

The agency said it has seen a surge of racial harassment cases in the past two decades, some of which involved hangman’s nooses and verbal threats of lynching. Racial harassment charges filed at EEOC offices have more than doubled from 3,075 in fiscal year 1991 to about 7,000 in 2007, the commission said.

Source: FurnitureToday

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