scorecardExxonMobil is accused of failing to protect workers after 5 nooses were found at its Louisiana chemical plant
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ExxonMobil is accused of failing to protect workers after 5 nooses were found at its Louisiana chemical plant

Aaron McDade   

ExxonMobil is accused of failing to protect workers after 5 nooses were found at its Louisiana chemical plant
PolicyPolicy2 min read
  • ExxonMobil didn't protect workers from racial discrimination, a federal agency says in a new suit.
  • Five nooses were found at a Louisiana Exxon plant, the EEOC says in the lawsuit.

ExxonMobil didn't protect a worker from racial harassment when the company failed to take measures to prevent nooses from being hung at a plant in Louisiana, a federal agency claimed in a lawsuit filed this week.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said a Black employee at an ExxonMobil plant in Baton Rouge found and reported a noose hanging at his workstation in January 2020, the agency said in the lawsuit.

At the time the employee reported the noose, the company was aware of three prior incidents involving nooses at the facility, the EEOC said. In April 2016, the company was informed of a noose in the facility, and subsequently banned two contractors from the site following an investigation, according to the suit.

While the contractors were banned, the suit claims that ExxonMobil did not take other measures like counseling or policy changes. In a second incident in March 2019, another noose was identified and reported, the suit said.

A supervisor removed the noose, but didn't notify human resources, and no investigation took place, the suit claims. Following the March 2019 incident, yet another noose was reported in August 2019, but an investigation was unable to determine who was responsible, the suit says.

The suit says that the August 2019 investigation also led to other recommendations to "remedy harassment in the workplace," but not all of the measures were taken before a fourth noose was found in January 2020.

Milferd McGhee, a Black man who had worked at the facility since 2010, reported the fourth noose, which was hanging at his worksite, the EEOC said in its suit. McGhee reported the noose to his supervisor, and another investigation was unable to identify who installed the noose, the suit said.

However, the suit claims, the investigation did lead to more recommendations, not all of which were followed before McGhee found a fifth noose in December 2020.

The EEOC said in its suit that ExxonMobil's lack of action constitutes a violation of McGhee's civil right to avoid being racially harassed at his place of work by failing to act on the measures recommended by the investigations.

"When employers become aware of racially offensive or threatening conduct in the workplace, they have a legal obligation to take prompt, remedial action aimed at stopping it," said Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC's Houston District Office.

An ExxonMobil spokesperson told Insider in a statement that the company disagrees with the EEOC's findings and the allegations made by the agency.

"We encourage employees to report claims like this, and we thoroughly investigated," the spokesperson said. "The symbols of hate are unacceptable, offensive, and in violation of our corporate policies. We have a zero tolerance policy of any form of harassment or discrimination in the workplace by or towards employees, contractors, suppliers or customers."

The lawsuit seeks compensation for McGhee's emotional damages, as well as punitive damages for "malicious and/or reckless conduct." It also seeks to order ExxonMobil to implement policies to ensure equal employment opportunities, among other policies to combat discrimination. It's filed in US District Court in Louisiana.




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