Overview: A Black woman who was offended when her coworkers called her Aunt Jemima and other racial epithets was fired after she complained about the offensive behavior.
The scenario: Shortly after she started her assignment at the Ryder Integrated Logistics facility in Moreno Valley, CA, Regina Fisher, an African American employee of Kimco Staffing Services, realized that she didn’t look like most of the other people working in the plant.
And some of her Hispanic coworkers seemed to bear a grudge against Black staffers like her. On an almost daily basis, other employees referred to Fisher as Negra Fea, Aunt Jemima, the woman on the maple syrup bottle, a token black slave and cocina.
Fisher was deeply offended by the daily barrage of negative statements, so she complained to her boss, but he dismissed the offensive comments as gossip and harmless name calling.
Worse, managers for both Ryder and Kimco overheard several of the racist allegations, which also included references to Fisher as the Black girl. And she was told that Black people are lazy and don’t like to work.
When Fisher again complained about the troubling behavior, she was fired even though the employer’s progressive discipline policy called for a verbal warning prior to termination for an alleged first offense.
After she was dismissed, Fisher contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Legal challenge: The EEOC sued Ryder and Kimco for race discrimination.
The ruling: The companies lost. To make the lawsuit disappear, the organizations agreed to pay $1 million each.
EEOC v. Kimco Staffing Services and Ryder Integrated Logistics.
(From the July 2, 2021, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)