A major Silicon Valley manufacturer of semiconductor production equipment will pay $168,000 to settle a racial harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC had charged Novellus Systems, Inc. with subjecting an African American worker to racial harassment because he had to listen on a regular basis to a 27-year-old Vietnamese American co-worker playing and rapping aloud to music lyrics that included anti-black racial epithets such as the “N-word.” According to the EEOC’s suit, although the worker made it clear that the language was offensive to him and made reports several times to his supervisors the co-worker continued to use slang involving racial slurs and to sing along to these kinds of lyrics within earshot. The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that delaying effective corrective action by more than half a year constitutes unlawful harassment, and that the company ultimately fired the worker in retaliation for his earlier complaints. The two-year consent decree includes monetary damages of $168,000 as well as specific injunctive relief. Novellus agreed to incorporate a “Statement of Zero-Tolerance Policy and Equality Objectives” in its Equal Employment Opportunity and Harassment Policy. Additionally, Novellus agreed to amend its harassment policy to refer specifically to harassment through the playing of music, and to include offensive musical lyrics in its examples of racial harassment.
“The EEOC is not in the business of judging anyone’s musical tastes, but we are concerned when we find that an employer failed to respond promptly after being put on notice of racially offensive language or conduct in the workplace,” said EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “We commend the company for resolving this action and for agreeing to modify its anti-discrimination policies to include a specific prohibition of the playing of music lyrics that contain racially derogatory terms.” The EEOC invites employers and advocates to take part in its E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment). Launched early last year by EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp, E-RACE, a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign focuses on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace. Further information about the E-RACE Initiative is available on the EEOC’s website at http://www.eeoc.gov/initiatives/e-race/index.html. According to its website, San Jose, Calif.- headquartered Novellus (NASDAQ: NVLS) maintains engineering facilities in San Jose and Tualatin, Ore., with sales and service operations in 16 countries around the world. Novellus has approximately 3,300 employees worldwide and annual revenues of $1.6 billion. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at http://www.eeoc.gov. Further information about Colorado employment law can be found at Kimberlie Ryan's website at www.lawyers.com/ryanfirm.