Forestry Giant Sierra Pacific Industries Settles EEOC National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit
By the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
Redding, Calif.-based Sierra Pacific Industries, which owns and harvests forests in California and Washington, will pay $95,000 to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and continuing until his discharge, Sierra Pacific allowed co-workers to harass Ahmed Elshenawy, a worker of Egyptian national origin employed at the company’s Red Bluff, Calif., plant. The co-workers called Elshenawy “Osama,” “f—ing Arabian,” and “camel jockey,” the EEOC said. Elshenawy complained and was thereafter subjected to complaints by co-workers. Further, the EEOC said, the company retaliated against Eshanaway by subjecting him to harsher discipline, ultimately terminating him in 2004.
Harassment based on national origin violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law also strictly prohibits retaliation against employees who report discrimination. After an investigation by EEOC Investigators Kirsten Peters and Scott Doughtie and first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit on June 25, 2008 (Civil Action No. 08-00710) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
The consent decree settling the suit was approved by Judge Kendall J. Newman of U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California in Sacramento (Civ. No. CV-01470-MCE). Sierra Pacific denied the allegations, but agreed to pay $95,000 in damages to Elshenawy. In addition, the two-year decree provides that Sierra Pacific Industries will conduct yearly training of employees, report the details of any future complaints of national origin discrimination or retaliation, revise its anti-discrimination policies and post information regarding the decree for current employees.
Elshenawy, who served in the U.S. Army after his firing from Sierra Pacific, expressed his satisfaction with the settlement.
“I will never forget the mistreatment I suffered just because of where I come from,” Elshenawy said. “The EEOC showed me that laws protect workers from discrimination.”
EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, “The EEOC is pleased with this settlement and commends Sierra Pacific for its cooperation in resolving this case. We also thank Mr. Elshenawy for having the courage to report this discrimination.”
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, “The training and reporting requirements that the company has agreed to in the consent decree will help prevent similar cases from arising in the future. Settlements such as this one result in positive changes which benefit everyone in the workplace.”
According to the company website, www.spi-ind.com, Sierra Pacific Industries is a major forest products processor that owns and manages two million acres of forest land in California and Washington.
The EEOC enforces the nation’s laws in the private and federal sectors prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.