Even as the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 nears in a few years, it is clear that employees facing race and employment discrimination still must fight to protect their rights and prevent future harm. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission continues to settle cases dealing with discrimination, including one in 2011 with a Minnesota roofing company that agreed to pay a settlement and revise its procedures for handling discrimination complaints.

A recent case has come to a resolution where black employees of two major transportation companies in Chicago faced a hostile work environment, including racist graffiti and comments, and even hangman’s nooses hung in the workplace. They also endured harsher discipline and were assigned harder, more time-consuming work than their white colleagues.

These employees complained to the EEOC about conditions, which the employer failed to change. As a result, the employees had to pursue a lawsuit with the EEOC against the employer. Employees involved in the lawsuit included everyone from dockworkers and hostlers, to clerical staff, janitors and supervisors.

Now, as many as 324 employees will receive a portion of $11 million as part of a consent decree entered by U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox on June 29. In addition, the decree prohibits the companies involved from engaging in any more discriminatory practices or retaliating against employees who report employment discrimination or race discrimination. The decree also requires the companies to hire consultants to evaluate disciplinary procedures and to make changes as recommended.

The EEOC received over 25,000 claims of racial discrimination at work in 2006. Employees need to know that their rights are protected under federal law and that they have legal options for holding discriminatory employers accountable.

Source: EEOC, “EEOC Race Discrimination Case Against YRC/Yellow Transportation Ends with $11 Million Decree,” June 29, 2012