Aarons, Inc., a nationwide chain of rent-to-own stores, violated federal law when supervisors engaged in race-based harassment of Black employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed last month.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, Aarons subjected Black employees to a race-based hostile work environment at its Jamaica, Queens warehouse in New York. The mistreatment included the regular and open use of slurs such as “n——r” and “monkey” by managers at the warehouse. African-American workers were also assigned more difficult tasks and generally treated worse than others at the warehouse.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, which includes subjecting employees to a racially hostile work environment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. Aaron’s, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-07273) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorneys Sebastian Riccardi and Katie Linehan, supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.
“Employees have a right to work in an environment free of racial harassment,” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “Racial harassment is against the law, and employers must know that this type of conduct cannot be tolerated.” EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry added, “The law is clear: Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their workplaces are free from racial harassment and cannot ignore racist behavior by their managers.”
The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, and Connecticut.