NEW YORK, N.Y. – Aaron’s, Inc., a nationwide chain of rent-to-own furniture stores, will pay $425,000 and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit for racial harassment filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Aaron’s subjected black employees to a race-based hostile work environment at its Jamaica warehouse. The mistreatment included the regular and open use of derogatory slurs including the “n-word” by managers at the warehouse, who also directed other vulgar language toward black employees, including referring to them as “monkeys.” Black workers were also assigned more difficult tasks and longer delivery routes than others at the warehouse.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on race, which includes subjecting employees to a racially hostile work environment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. Aaron’s, Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-07273), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.
“No one should have to put up with racial harassment at work to earn a living,” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “It does not matter whether the workplace is a warehouse or an office. Employers have an obligation to stop unlawful harassment.”
Under the consent decree, Aaron’s will pay $425,000 to victims of the harassment. It also requires Aaron’s to maintain an antidiscrimination policy, provide EEO training to all its employees in the New York City area, and report future complaints of race discrimination by Aaron’s employees to the EEOC.
“Racist behavior and the use of racial slurs by supervisors profoundly alter the work environment for employees. Employers should know if this illegal conduct is tolerated or left unaddressed, the EEOC will hold employers accountable,” said EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry.
The New York District Office of the EEOC is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.