Workers are protected by federal, state and locals laws from discrimination on the basis of race, but it is not always easy for workers to take advantage of these laws. Sometimes workers follow the required procedures and report harassment and discrimination, only to see their employers ignore them. And sometimes after this happens, workers have little choice but to put up with the abuse because they can’t afford to quit their jobs.
A lawsuit recently filed in North Carolina highlights some of the advantages and difficulties of discrimination law. The claim was filed by a married couple who began working at a Wilkes County Tyson Farms chicken processing plant in 2015. The couple, who are Black and Muslim, allege that in the years they were employed at the plant, a supervisor subjected them to frequent verbal abuse, racist slurs and disparaging remarks about their faith.
Reports and retaliation
In their lawsuit, the couple claim that they reported the harassment and discrimination to their supervisor and multiple departments of the the company, but their employer did nothing to stop the abuse. One of the couple was fired in 2019, and she claims it was in retaliation for her reports of discrimination. Her husband claims he was forced to quit by the continuing abuse he received from a supervisor. They took their case to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which granted them the right to sue earlier this year. The couple is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees. As of this writing, Tyson Farms had not yet responded to the complaint.
Among other things, the lawsuit shows that the process of stopping discrimination and enforcing workers’ rights has a lot of stages and potential pitfalls. To assert their rights, workers may need help from a skilled employment law attorney.