verdicts-and-settlements-article

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Aqua American 

$150,000 Settlement

Date of Verdict: Jan. 23.

Court and Case No.: U.S. District Court, E.D. of Pa., No. 2:17-cv-04346-JS.

Type of Action: Civil Rights

Injuries: Discrimination

Plaintiffs Counsel: Jennifer L. Hope, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel:  David L. Hackett and Anna B. Will Kentz, Cozen O’Connor, Philadelphia.

Comment:

In January 2015, Henry Blue, whose suit was brought by plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, began working as a foreman at Aqua Resources Inc., a water and waste-water services company, at its facility in Bear, Delaware.

According to the EEOC, Blue, who is African-American, repeatedly had racial slurs directed at him by a white superintendent and other white foremen. Blue complained to company management about the slurs to which he and other African-American employees were subjected, including epithets such as “n—-r,” “monkey” and “boy.” Aqua Resources not only failed to stop the harassment, but in fact promoted one of the wrongdoers and assigned Blue to work under his supervision on a project. In May 2016, Aqua Resources fired Blue, allegedly in retaliation for complaining about the racially hostile work environment.

The EEOC sued Aqua America Inc., doing business as Aqua Resources Inc., alleging that it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Aqua Resources denied the allegations.

The EEOC, on behalf of Blue and those similarly situated, sought to recover back pay and unspecified amounts in compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC further sought to have Aqua Resources institute anti-discrimination policies and provide training on employee rights under Title VII.

The parties settled for $150,000, prior to trial. Under a two-year consent decree, Aqua Resources is prohibited from engaging in discrimination based on race or unlawful retaliation in the future. The company will provide training on federal anti-discrimination laws, including preventing harassment. Aqua Resources will also implement and disseminate to all employees a revised anti-harassment policy, and will also post a notice regarding the settlement. The company will also provide Blue with a neutral reference letter.

This report is based on information that was provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Defense counsel did not respond to calls for comment.

—This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication.