Racially Hostile Environment Created by Displayed Nooses

December 20, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued Ryan's Family Steakhouse Inc. for creating a racially hostile work environment when a manager displayed nooses.

The Birmingham News reports that the discrimination and retaliation federal lawsuit alleges the company violated Jasper restaurant employee Matthew Rainey’s civil rights. According to the suit, the nooses were displayed after Rainey’s supervisor learned that he dated a white female co-worker.

The lawsuit, which seeks damages and corrective measures, claims that the manager displayed a noose in several places throughout the restaurant in October 2003 after telling several other workers he did not like interracial dating, according to the news report.

The suit said Rainey complained to the manager that the noose offended him, but was told, “Keep giving me attitude, I’ll use it on you.” Rainey also complained to an area supervisor, but no action was taken.

Rainey visited the restaurant a month later when he was off duty and saw the noose again. He complained again and told the manager the noose was not a funny gesture. According to the suit, the manager retaliated against Rainey for complaining by firing him.

“A noose is a symbol of terror,”Mason Barrett, a senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s Birmingham office, said . “It’s a symbol of death … Any complaint of a noose in a workplace is one too many.”