The Miami office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission reported last week that Adelphia Communications Corp. has agreed to pay $1,050,000 to settle a racial harassment claim filed by six company employees in Florida.
The consent decree has been filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division, the EEOC said. The settlement is subject to the approval of Judge Adalberto Jordan there.
The employees alleged that a technical operations manager at the cable company displayed a hangman's noose in his office and verbally abused African-American employees.
A request for a comment on the suit was forwarded to Adelphia corporate legal executives, who did not respond. Company spokesman Paul Heimel did note the offending manager is no longer with the company.
The settlement agreement is subject to the approval of the judge hearing the case, which was filed by six employees. Glenford James was the lead plaintiff in the civil rights case, filed in 2001.
The Miami EEOC office said the agency has taken part in several lawsuits in Florida during the last two years involving the display of nooses in management offices.
"Employers must face the reality that the presence of a noose is unacceptable and such conduct will be met with the full force of the agency's litigation efforts," Delner Franklin-Thomas, regional attorney for the EEOC's Miami office, said in a prepared statement.
Florida is not the only state where such litigation has been filed. Last November, similar displays were cited in a lawsuit brought against American Airlines in Dallas.
Minority workers argue that the display of nooses contributes to a hostile workplace.
The Adelphia workers claimed the Florida technical operations manager used the symbol to intimidate African-American employees.
The situation was exacerbated during a company-sponsored "Bring Your Children to Work" day, when the manager moved the symbol to his office door where it was seen by the youngsters, according to the EEOC.
The agency contends the workers complained to regional and corporate human resources departments, but that nothing was done to remove the symbol.
If the consent decree is approved by Judge Jordan, Adelphia also will be required to employ extensive injunctive measures through 2006. Those measures include the distribution and posting of an anti-discrimination policy so it can be read by all employees, and training of managers and supervisory employees on all aspects of civil rights law.
Adelphia also must designate an ombudsman to hear discrimination complaints.