Healthcare company and staffing agency fostered racially charged, hostile work environment
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Global healthcare service company Cardinal Health will pay $1.45m and implement sweeping injunctive relief to settle a racial harassment and retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the federal agency, African American employees either directly employed by Cardinal Health or assigned to work for the company by California-based staffing agency AppleOne were subjected to ongoing harassment based on their race.

When employees complained, neither Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health nor AppleOne took immediate and corrective action regarding the harassment, which allowed the hostile work environment to fester, according to the EEOC.

The EEOC further charged that employees who did complain were retaliated against, disciplined, and terminated, while other employees felt that they had no choice but to quit.

Racial harassment and retaliation of complaints are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in US District Court for the Central District of California after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.

In addition to the $1.45m monetary settlement, Cardinal Health and AppleOne have agreed to separate two-year consent decrees that include injunctive relief aimed at preventing workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

The decrees include retaining an equal employment opportunity monitor; conducting audits; the review and revision of policies prohibiting discrimination and the distribution of those policies to direct and temporary employees; and establishing an internal complaint procedure.

Additionally, both organisations have agreed to maintain a toll-free complaint hotline and provide discrimination training for all employees, while Cardinal Health has also agreed to extend the decree an additional year if recommended by the EEOC monitor.

The decrees will remain under the court’s jurisdiction for at least a two-year term.

“The EEOC has seen an increase in race harassment allegations across industries and localities,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles district office. “It is very important for employers and staffing agencies to be proactive in addressing these issues.

“Cardinal Health and AppleOne are commended for establishing changes within their workplaces that will have a positive impact on their employees and the communities they reside in.”

Rosa Viramontes, the EEOC’s Los Angeles district director, added: “Cardinal Health and AppleOne have put in place measures aimed at preventing discrimination and harassment that other employers should also consider.

“Employers and staffing agencies need to understand that both entities bear the responsibility to address and correct harassment and retaliation in the workplace. Employees should not have to choose between their livelihoods and the detrimental effects that race harassment can have on them.”