Air Systems Inc. to pay $1.25 million to settle EEOC racial harassment suit after Apple Park incidents

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Image: Apple Park Campus/Credit: Flickr

A San Jose-based electrical subcontractor at the Apple Park construc­tion project, Air Systems Inc. (ASI), will pay $1.25 million to eight African American former employees and provide other relief to settle a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The  EEOC’s said in an Aug. 21 statement that the racial harassment included racist graffiti of swastikas and racial epithets drawn on the walls of the portable toilets at the Apple Park construction project, as well as a noose at the worksite hung next to a scrawled note containing other expletives, and a threat of lynching. In addition, the company failed to act when notified by two African American employees that a white coworker had taunted them with racial pejoratives.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits racial harassment and requires employers to take prompt action to investigate and stop the behavior after they receive complaints.

The EEOC filed suit (U.S. EEOC v. Air Systems, Inc., Case No. 5:19-cv-07574) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

According to the consent decree which is effective until Dec. 31, 2022, ASI will provide $1.25 million in compensatory damages to the former employees and hire an EEO consultant to help implement the decree’s terms. ASI will review company policies and train all employees, including superintendents and general foremen, on preventing and reporting racial harassment.

ASI will also work with the consultant to develop policies and procedures to facilitate discussions with potential subcontractors, general contractors and unions about how to best monitor, prevent and remedy harassment and racist graffiti at worksites and develop proposals to incorporate such terms into contracts.

William Tamayo, the EEOC’s San Francisco district director, said: “While a construction worksite may raise issues over who controls conditions, this case should send a clear message that whether an employer is a subcontractor or the general contractor, all employers have a duty to take prompt, effective action to stop harassment and hate speech in the workplace. In this period of national reckoning on the persistence of racial discrimination, we’re glad that Air Systems agreed to settle this matter and provide significant relief to these workers.”

“These workers demonstrated bravery and perseverance to stand up against discrimination at one of the largest construction projects in the country. It has been an honor to represent them,” EEOC San Francisco senior trial attorney Raymond Cheung said in the statement,

ASI is a building contractor based in San Jose, California, that employs approximately 500 employees statewide and is part of the EMCOR Group, Inc.

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