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Nooses at Baton Rouge Plant Prompt Federal Lawsuit

Photo by Raymond Kotewicz on Unsplash
Photo by Raymond Kotewicz on Unsplash

(By Nicole Duncan-Smith for Atlanta Black Star) – The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil after the company neglected to address racially motivated harassment claims by Black workers, including investigating several nooses left in a Baton Rouge complex.

Now the government is seeking relief for employees who can prove they were discriminated against and treated poorly because of the color of their skin.

On Thursday, March 2, EEOC, the federal agency responsible for protecting the civil rights of workers, announced it filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corporation in the United States District Court in Baton Rouge for violating federal law when its human resources division failed to “prevent” hangman ropes from swinging in several of its locations three years ago.

Milferd McGhee is one of many individuals who complained and is the first to file his complaint with the EEOC.

The lawsuit was initiated by the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office, which is part of its Houston District Office and has jurisdiction over Louisiana and parts of Texas. The agency said it attempted to reach a conciliation agreement with Exxon in February. But when the company failed to settle on terms, the commission working on the case filed the suit.

According to the complaint, the company, which does business as ExxonMobil Chemical Corporation, was informed of five nooses between April 2016 and December 2020 at the chemical plant and the nearby refinery. Despite Black employees bringing it to the attention of company executives, they found, as they reported, that very little was done.

The lawsuit states, according to The New York Times, that during the Exxon-initiated investigation, the company banned two unidentified contractors. However, it did not mandate diversity and inclusion actions “such as training, counseling or policy changes, to prevent further racial harassment.”

EEOC “alleges that ExxonMobil investigated some [of the noose complaints], but not all, of the prior incidents and failed to take measures reasonably calculated to end the harassment.”

“After the employee reported the noose in January, a fifth noose was reported in December 2020 at the complex,” it continued, adding, “ExxonMobil’s actions and omissions regarding the noose incidents created a racially hostile work environment,” violating the civil rights of its Black employees.

Read more here.

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