Articles Posted in Retaliation

Friedman & Houlding LLP represents Doretha Steeples in her suit against Defendant BAE Systems Ship Repair, Inc., alleging a racially hostile work environment and related claims. Ms. Steeples, who is Black, began working as a skilled pipefitter at the BAE Norfolk shipyard in May 2018. Her Complaint alleges that a Caucasian coworker used racially derogatory language in front of her and others. The coworker referred to Black women as “ghetto-fabulous bitches” and “wratched-nasty hoes.” Soon after Ms. Steeples began working at the shipyard, the coworker stated in front of Ms. Steeples and others, “These fucking n*ggers get on my effin’ nerves.”

Witnesses corroborate Ms. Steeples’ allegations of racial harassment in sworn Declarations submitted with Ms. Steeples’ federal Complaint. BAE had received multiple complaints about the coworkers’ racial invectives on prior occasions. Even though BAE was already on notice of the co-worker’s racial abuse, nevertheless, Ms. Steeples reported the racial harassment to management, including to a BAE project planner and a BAE supervisor, who both stated that they would address the issue. Yet the harassment continued. Ms. Steeples endured comments from her coworker referring to Black employees as “n*ggerish” and other comments concerning the coworker’s boyfriend’s violent conduct around people of color, wherein the coworker would spew references to Black people as “n*ggers.”

When nothing was done to address the ongoing harassment, Ms. Steeples went to the Pipe Shop Foreman, Tony Featherstone, who assured Ms. Steeples that he would report her complaint to Human Resources. Ms. Steeples never heard from HR concerning her complaint.

Friedman & Houlding LLP clients Derick Brown, Atiba Flemons, and Jeffrey Taylor, have brought a Class Action suit on behalf of Black employees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, alleging that the University has a pattern or practice of tolerating racial harassment against its Black employees, and that the office charged with investigating complaints of racial harassment is itself discriminatory in its handling of complaints.

One former Office of Access and Equity (OAE) Investigator, a non-party witness in the lawsuit, testified that she “was working in a hostile work environment,” describing the reasons that she left her employment at OAE (formerly ODEA), the office charged with investigating complaints of harassment and discrimination at the Urbana-Champaign campus. Referring to Director of OAE, Heidi Johnson, the witness testified, “It was my perception and I believe the perception — because it was told to me by other colleagues, that Heidi favored our white colleagues.”

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The witness testified that she did not think Director Johnson treated employees of color in OAE equitably, describing Johnson’s indifference on issues concerning diversity and inclusion and personnel actions driven by bias, including stripping away the title of the witness, a person of color, without a stated basis, favoring White employees with less experience for promotions, and issuing the witness with a baseless disciplinary action. This treatment ultimately drove the witness to leave the University of Illinois after working many years as an OAE investigator.

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