Racial Harassment, Noose Cost Alabama Cement Plant $400,000

The dark days of old South apparently still live on at Ready Mix USA’s plant in Montgomery, Ala.

A noose was allegedly displayed at the Ready Mix worksite in Montgomery. African-American workers were the subject of derogatory racial language, including Ku Klux Klan references, used by a direct Ready Mix supervisor and manager and that race-based name-calling took place, according to a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

 (U.S. Census Bureau photo)

Because of the racist actions of its managers Ready Mix USA, a major cement and concrete products company and subsidiary of Mexico-based Cemex, will pay $400,000 and comply with other agreements to settle a racial harassment lawsuit.

The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that a class of African American men at Ready Mix’s Montgomery, Ala.-area facilities were subjected to a racially hostile work environment.

Ready Mix denies that racial harassment occurred at its worksites.

The EEOC filed suit against Ready Mix USA LLC, doing business as Couch Ready Mix USA LLC (EEOC v. Ready Mix USA 2:09-CV-923) after first trying to negotiate a pre-litigation settlement.

“Employees have a right to expect that harassment based on race will be kept out of the workplace,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC’s Birmingham district office. “This case involved not only racist language, but a noose, a threatening symbol of cruelty that has no place in any American workplace.”

The consent decree settling the suit requires Ready Mix to pay a total of $400,000 in compensatory damages to seven workers. Each party will bear its own litigation costs and attorneys’ fees.

The two-year decree enjoins Ready Mix from engaging in further racial harassment or retaliation and requires that the company conduct EEO training.
Ready Mix is also required to modify its policies to ensure that racial harassment is prohibited and a system for investigation of complaints is in place. The company must also report certain complaints of harassment or retaliation to the EEOC for monitoring.

“We are pleased that Ready Mix has taken these steps to address this very alarming situation and improve its work environment,” EEOC Birmingham District Regional Attorney C. Emanuel Smith said. “We encourage all employers to help make workplace race discrimination a thing of the past.”

Cemex subsidiaries have run afoul of U.S. labor law in the recent past.
In December 2010 the U.S. Department of Labor won a case again case against CEMEX Inc. that recovered $1,514,449 in overtime back wages for 1,705 current and former ready-mix cement truck drivers in eight states.

Cemex is based in Monterrey, Mexico, and is the United States’ largest supplier of cement and ready-mix concrete, as well as producer of aggregates, concrete blocks and other building materials. As of 2008, Cemex had 18 cement plants either wholly or partially owned, 536 ready-mix plants, 102 aggregates quarries, 43 land distribution centers and 11 marine terminals.

In the case involving the truck drivers, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division began a local investigation in Tampa, Fla., which disclosed systemic overtime violations resulting from the employer’s failure to compensate “pay-per-load” employees with premium pay for hours that they worked more than 40 in a workweek.

The investigation expanded to cover affected Cemex employees in Arizona, California, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

Further EEOC information is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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