South Florida Fire Department Under EEOC Investigation

Snug in Florida’s deep south, Davie, Florida is a town known for its Western roots, featuring a western-themed amusement park, and more citizens with horses than you can shake a stick at. Davie’s population of about 92,000 is supported by five fire stations, nos. 38, 65, 68, 91 and 104. The hundred year old town, once an out of the way western paradise, is now hitting the news as the subject of allegations of Title VII discrimination at its fire department.
A Host of Discrimination Complaints
The discrimination claims appear not to be an isolated incident: 18 Title VII claims in total are allegedly under investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC (the EEOC does not publicly discuss or confirm whether complaints are being investigated). Ten of the 18 charging parties are being represented by two attorneys. The most damning complaint comes from a female firefighter who claims she was unfairly subjected to full duty during the first trimester of her pregnancy. This charging party is alleging that eight (8) days after fighting a fire with her colleagues, she miscarried.
An Alleged Culture of Sexism and Bigotry
The charges center on complaints of sexism and bigotry. The most publicized involve the above case of miscarriage, as well as the story of Linda Stokoe. Stokoe was a fire inspector for the city, but was allegedly fired due to sex discrimination. The former inspector claims she was ordered to keep records of her bathroom visits, and that women were generally believed by her peers to be unfit for firefighting. Another charge alleges discrimination against a Jewish American, who claims derogatory terms and slurs were used against him.
How Does Title VII Apply?
Title VII, as amended, directly prohibits discrimination in the workplace on account of gender, race and religion, among other protected categories. The complaints described against the Davie, Florida Fire Department include racial and gender slurs, preferential treatment, and statements (direct, not implied statements) that women and some minorities are unfit to serve in the Fire Department. Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was instituted, nearly every generation of EEOC leadership interpreting the Act has prohibited such treatment.
Is This Your Story?
If you feel that your race, gender, religion, national origin, disability or age have played an unnecessary role at your job, or even in your attempts to find work, then you may have a claim of discrimination. For further information and a free consultation, call the law offices of Valli, Kane & Vagnini today.

EEOC cites local company

The Paris News
EEOC cites local company
By Mary Madewell
Published April 9, 2010
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – Dallas District has cited Turner Industries Group for civil rights violations and has ordered a formal dispute resolution process.
The commission’s action, confirmed in a March 31 letter to Turner and to attorneys representing eight of the firm’s Paris employees, comes as a result of charges filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Attorney James Vagnini of New York said at a March 12, 2009, press conference that he had filed a class charge on behalf of Dontrail Mathis and Karl Mitchell and their coworkers. Named as charging parties in addition to Mathis and Mitchell are John Ellis, Ricky Fore Jr., Chris Hall, Stanrod Johnson, Nina Taylor and John Wilson III.
Turner Industries Group, in a statement released early today, denies the allegations.
“We are disappointed that the EEOC has issued this determination and strongly disagree with the EEOC’s findings,” the release states. “We welcome the opportunity to meet with the EEOC and are confident that meeting will demonstrate the Turner’s Paris, Texas facility is free from any form of discrimination, retaliation, or any other workplace conduct that violates the law.
“Our Paris, Texas facility is not, nor has it ever contained a hostile work environment,” the release states.
Michael Fetzer, director for the Dallas Equal Employment Opportunity Office, stated in the determination letter: “There is reasonable cause to believe that the respondent (Turner) discriminated against the charging parties and a class of similarly situated black employees … by subjecting them to a hostile work environment and disparate treatment.”
The determination letter also states there is “reasonable cause” to believe
Turner retaliated against some of the employees “because of their complaints about discrimination and opposition to practices believed to be unlawful and because of their participation in EEOC’s investigation.”
The letter also cited “reasonable cause” that Turner retaliated against “some other white employees because of their opposition to practices believed to be unlawful or because of their participation in EEOC’s investigation.”
But Turner said it has “extensively investigated the charges, and has determined that no worker nor class of workers was discriminated against based upon their race, or any other legally protected status.
“Furthermore, Turner management has determined that no worker nor class of workers was retaliated against for making complaints, for participating in investigations, or for any other reasons,” the release states.
During the EEOC investigation, the determination letter stated witnesses were interviewed and documents were reviewed.
“I have considered all the evidence disclosed during the investigation and find that there is reasonable cause to believe that Title VII violations occurred. Specifically, the evidence shows that on a regular basis the charging parties and a class of similarly situated black employees were subjected to unwelcome racial slurs, comments and intimidation, racial graffiti, nooses in the workplace and other symbols of discrimination,” Fetzer stated.
The EEOC director also stated some employees made complaints to the corporate office through a Hotline but the company failed to take effective remedial action. Fetzer said evidence indicates one of the employees, Fore, was terminated “after he repeatedly refused to make a statement against one of the charging parties.”
The determination letter further states that some employees were subjected to disparate treatment and because of their race “they were subjected to different terms and conditions of their employment than White employees, including but not limited to disparate job assignments, application of workplace rules and denial of promotional opportunities and other avenues of advancement.”
Turner denies all allegations.
“Turner Industries has a long-standing zero tolerance policy for any behavior in the workplace that disparages any employee,” the organization said. “We remain committed to maintaining a professional atmosphere that reinforces the company’s commitment to equality, fairness and tolerance.”
Copyright © 2010 The Paris News

Contractor at Airports Settles Suit in Bias Case

Published: March 12, 2008

DALLAS — Allied Aviation Services, which fuels planes at airports nationwide, agreed on Tuesday to pay $1.9 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit begun by 15 black and Hispanic employees at its Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport facility who said they had been forced to endure racial slurs and other harassment.

Matt Slocum/Associated Press: Eric Mitchel and Diana Ochoa spoke Tuesday in Dallas on the settlement of a discrimination lawsuit against Allied Aviation Services. Ms. Ochoa is the widow of Francisco Ochoa, a plaintiff

The company, which did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, also agreed to conduct sensitivity and diversity training for all of its employees in the United States for the next three years. The settlement was announced at a news conference outside the Dallas district office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had filed a suit on behalf of the workers.
The settlement is the largest race and national origin discrimination case ever resolved by the Dallas office, Suzanne M. Anderson, the agency’s supervisory trial lawyer, said.
“What made this case so repulsive was not just the egregious conduct against blacks and Hispanics by their co-workers but also management’s acquiescence to the harassment,” she said in a prepared statement.
The company could not be reached for comment at its headquarters in New York. An operator at its facility at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport said, “I’ve been instructed that there is no comment from this station.”
A former Dallas Cowboys running back, Eric Mitchel, began the lawsuit after finding his name and the names of four other black employees on a bathroom wall underneath the title “hit list,” which included a racial epithet.
He said at the news conference that he had reported the threat to the airport police but had been told by Allied management “if I didn’t like what was going on, I could leave.” It was one of many incidents that Mr. Mitchel said had caused him to compare the work environment at Allied to that of a modern-day plantation.
Other Allied employees cited a pattern of discrimination and civil rights violations. Ku Klux Klan membership cards were routinely brandished by white employees, and nooses and drawings of swastikas were commonplace, according to their suit. When boarding shuttles, Hispanics were told to ride in the back of the bus, it said.
Carl Gaines, a black employee, discovered racial slurs and other derogatory remarks on the fuel panel of an American Airlines jet he was servicing, the suit said. To his surprise, he realized that the epithets singled him out by name.
Francisco Ochoa, a Hispanic employee, went into a meeting with a supervisor to discuss the conditions, only to find himself depicted in a racially offensive cartoon on display under glass on the manager’s desk, according to the suit. The mental anguish so traumatized Mr. Ochoa, a former marine, that he was later hospitalized for two weeks, said Sara W. Kane, a lawyer who worked on the case. Mr. Ochoa died of cancer two years ago.
Legal work on the case began four years ago after Mr. Mitchel found the response from Allied management unacceptable. After seeking legal counsel from a lawyer, James A. Vagnini, he was joined by seven other employees as parties to the lawsuit. That number eventually grew to 15. Six still work for the company.
“This is certainly one of the most, if not the most egregious case we’ve ever seen,” said Ms. Kane, a partner with Mr. Vagnini at Valli Kane & Vagnini in Garden City, N.Y., which represented the employees along with DiNovo Price Ellwanger in Austin, Tex. “The level and the depth that management was involved sets it apart from all other cases.”
Ms. Kane added that once the commission had completed its investigation into the case, it brought its own lawsuit against Allied on behalf of the employees. “That almost never happens,” she said.
Allied Aviation Services fuels 1.8 million commercial flights and handles close to six billion gallons of jet fuel each year, according to its Web site. It has operations at 24 major airports in North America, the Caribbean and Latin America, including the New York area’s three main airports.

Former Simply Pasta waiter suing restaurant for racial discrimination

BY Thomas Zambito
Monday, May 4th 2009, 11:59 PM

DeCrescenzo for News Marcus Simmons was fired from Simply Pasta, a restaurant in Midtown, in July 2007. He is now suing the establisment, claiming other workers taunted him and another African American worker.

A black waiter says bosses at a midtown Italian eatery brushed him off when he complained that co-workers chanted racial epithets at him in Spanish.
Marcus Simmons is expected to sue Simply Pasta for racial discrimination Tuesday in Manhattan Federal Court.
Simmons, 28, of Brooklyn, says the chants occurred in April 2007 when he tried to intervene in a confrontation between Hispanic workers and the Theater District restaurant’s only other black employee.
“Mayate, mayate,” the Hispanic workers chanted, according to the lawsuit filed by lawyer James Vagnini.
The slang term roughly translates as insect and is used derogatorily to refer to dark-skinned people. Simmons considered it a substitute for the N-word.
“That word is very hateful,” Simmons said. “I was very upset. I took the picture because I knew no one would believe me. They tried to play it like I’m crazy.”
Months later, Simmons says he walked into the kitchen and, beneath a posting warning waiters that the kitchen was running out of “Seafood Ravioli,” was the phrase, “Rata Mayate.” “Rata” means rat.
Simmons snapped a photo on his cell phone and included a copy in his complaint.
He asked co-workers, “to stop calling anybody n—– in any language,” according to a complaint filed with the State Division of Human Rights.
After the comments persisted, Simmons says he confronted general manager Martin Eklund on July 23, 2007, about the alleged harassment.
Eklund responded by sending him home, according to Vagnini.
When Simmons came to work a few days later, he was told management thought he’d quit. He’s currently unemployed.
In response to the Human Rights complaint, Simply Pasta denied that “mayate” is a substitute for the N-word and says the bulletin board scrawl was quickly erased.
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