Harris County company loses racial harassment lawsuit

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by khou.com staff

khou.com

Posted on November 21, 2010 at 6:41 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 22 at 4:11 PM

HOUSTON – A federal jury in Houston sided with employees and former employees of  FMC Technologies Friday in a racial harassment lawsuit.

The jury concluded that FMC’s management acted with malice or reckless indifference, subjecting the company to an award of punitive damages for the seven African-American plaintiffs.

The jury was hung on the amount of damages the victims were owed.

In October of 2007, employees said they found two nooses hanging from a shipping dock.

At the time, the company fired the four contractors who they claimed were responsible.

But employees claim the harassment continued with racist name-calling, KKK symbols, confederate flags and swastikas.

Attorney Angela Alioto said the plaintiffs filed suit after the company failed to take appropriate action.

"We are so pleased with the jury’s conclusion that this type of racial hostility is unacceptable in a civilized society and that FMC violated Federal law by condoning this type of workplace," said Alioto. "We are looking forward to a retrial of the plaintiff’s remaining claims."

Alioto added that FMC’s attempt to cover up and downplay the acts of racism prompted one member of the company’s human resources staff to resign in protest.

An FMC spokesperson disputed that claim in the following written statement issued on Monday:

"FMC Technologies’ policies are clear – the company does not tolerate illegal harassment or discrimination of any kind.  We believe the evidence at trial demonstrated that, whenever any employee or contractor raised a concern about racially discriminatory words, actions or symbols, the company thoroughly investigated and responded appropriately," said FMC spokesman Michael King.

"We agree with the jury’s rejection of all unlawful race discrimination claims brought by the plaintiffs against the company, and strongly believe that neither the facts nor the evidence presented at trial support partial findings in favor of the plaintiffs related to racially hostile environment," King said. "Although the verdict has yet to be formally entered by the court, we are considering all of our legal options with respect to this result and we look forward to prevailing in the subsequent trial on the issues left unresolved by the jury." 

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