Furniture Maker to Pay $465K to Settle Racial Harassment Claims

January 24, 2008 ( - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the settlement of a racial harassment lawsuit for $465,000 and significant remedial relief against Henredon Furniture Industries, Inc.

According to an EEOC news release, the suit was filed on behalf of African American employees who were subjected to a persistent racially hostile work environment at Henredon’s High Point, North Carolina manufacturing plant. From approximately 1998 through January 2006, African American employees were subjected to racial slurs and name calling, as well as threats by hangman’s nooses that were displayed at the plant, the EEOC claimed.

In addition to the $465,000 in compensatory damages to be divided among the seven class members, the three-year consent decree resolving the case includes injunctive relief enjoining Henredon Furniture from engaging in racial harassment or retaliation; requires anti-discrimination training; requires the posting of a notice about the settlement; and requires the company to report complaints of racial harassment to the EEOC for monitoring, the news release said.

“This settlement should remind employers of the potentially serious consequences of failing to take effective action to prevent and remedy racial harassment. It is in the best interest of all employers to create inclusive, discrimination-free work environments in accordance with the law,” said EEOC Charlotte District Director Reuben Daniels, Jr.

According to the announcement, the EEOC has observed a surge of racial harassment cases over the past two decades, some of which involve hangman’s nooses and verbal threats of lynching. Racial harassment charge filings with EEOC offices across the country have more than doubled from 3,075 in Fiscal Year 1991 to approximately 7,000 in FY 2007, based on preliminary year-end data.