EEOC Smacks NC Printer for Pro-Hispanic Discrimination
A North Carolina printing company is paying $334,000 to make the EEOC go away after the agency charged it with national-origin discrimination against “non-Hispanic” temporary workers.
The EEOC said PBM Graphics “violated federal law by refusing to place and/or assign non-Hispanic workers to its ‘core group’ of regular temporary workers.”
Hispanics Favored as Temp Workers
Beginning in 2003, PBM – a printing company with a fluctuating workload that uses a lot of temporary employees – told a “core group” of 50 to 75 regularly-employed temp workers to come to work unless otherwise notified. Other temp workers were only used on an “as-needed” basis and worked fewer hours.
The workers were assigned “light bindery handwork,” explains Tina Burnside, the supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “They were doing general labor.”
The problem was that the core group was “disproportionately Hispanic, to the exclusion of similarly qualified non-Latino temporary workers,” according to the EEOC. In fact, PBM had told the staffing agency that sent temporary workers to the company that it preferred Hispanics, according to a judge’s order denying PBM’s motion to dismiss in June.
“We hope this lawsuit reminds employers that they cannot discriminate on the basis of national origin, regardless of the national origin of the perpetrators, victims or beneficiaries of the discrimination,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, in a press release.
Investigation Uncovered Different Information
In June a judge ruled that the EEOC had taken too long to investigate the problem, but that in the end PBM was not harmed by the unreasonable delay – thus denying the company’s motion to dismiss.
Burnside says that while the EEOC investigated a complaint filed by a non-Hispanic employee of the company, the agency ended up filing charges against PBM based on different information it uncovered.
She would not elaborate on why that was the case, or whether any other illegal activities were alleged or uncovered. “We don’t get a lot of these cases,” she allows. “Usually when there is national origin discrimination it is against Hispanics.”
Burnside points to only three EEOC cases in the last four years in which white, or non-Hispanic, workers were discriminated against. They involved housekeepers at a hotel in Virginia, a meat cutter in North Carolina, and hotel workers in Colorado.
The consent decree PBM entered into with the EEOC provides that the $334,000 fine is to be distributed to the affected non-Hispanic temp workers at PBM. It also requires the company to use “legitimate non-discriminatory criteria” in assigning work to its regular temporary workers, Burnside says.
Temporary or Permanent: Same Rules
These cases are a reminder that national origin discrimination can happen to anyone – not just to what have been considered “minority” groups. In the Colorado hotel workers’ case, a Hampton Inn fired a white workers because, its management said, white workers were “indolent.”
“An employer cannot discharge or refuse to hire an individual based on derogatory stereotypical beliefs about that person’s race or national origin,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office who worked on that case.
It is also a reminder that temporary workers enjoy the same protections from discrimination that permanent workers do.
“Employers must also remember that they are responsible for temporary employees in their workplaces and must assign hours to them without regard to their national origin,” said Barnes.