EEOC Sues Energy Company For Race Discrimination
February 23, 2017
Source: Houston Chronicle
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday sued a Houston oil field equipment manufacturing company for allegedly firing a black employee who complained of racial harassment after accusing his white co-workers of donning a white hood that resembled Ku Klux Klan regalia.
Downhole Technology, which makes fracturing plugs for completion of oil and gas wells, was accused by the federal agency of failing to take prompt remedial action after Kenneth Echols, who is African-American, reported the incident to company officials and then retaliating against him for reporting the conduct.
Neither company officials nor its lawyer returned calls for comment.
Downhole Technology was founded in Houston in 2010. Austrian-based Schoeller-Bleckmann Oilfield Equipment, which makes tools for drilling and completing directional and horizontal wells, gained control of the company on April 1, when it bought a 68 percent stake in the privately-held company, according to Schoeller-Bleckmann.
According to the EEOC lawsuit, filed in federal court in Houston, Echols reported the April 15, 2015 workplace incident to a supervisor and the director of human resources. Echols was subsequently threatened by the same employees after filing his initial complaint and reported those threats too, according to the EEOC, which filed the case on behalf of Echols.
Six days later, on April 21, 2015, the human resource director asked Echols to agree that his co-workers had not harassed him on the basis of race and to confirm that the company had adequately addressed his concerns, according to the EEOC's lawsuit. Echols refused to make the agreement.
On the following day, Echols was reprimanded for failing to explain why he refused to sign the agreement, for not providing a statement explaining the incidents and for taking a sick day, according to the EEOC. When he refused to acknowledge the disciplinary write-up, Echols was fired. It was his first write-up since joining the company in late 2014.
The EEOC is seeking an unspecified amount for back pay, reimbursement of loan default penalties and job search expenses and damages for emotional pain and humiliation. The agency is also asking the court to order Downhole to hold race discrimination training for all Downhole employees at least once a year, develop a better way for employees to report discrimination such as a toll-free telephone number and warn the employees who engaged in the harassment that they will face disciplinary action if it happens again.