- A jury has awarded five black dancers $3.3 million in a lawsuit alleging their employer, a Jackson, Mississippi, night club, limited their shifts and assigned them to work at a less desirable location, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- Suing on behalf of the employees, EEOC said Danny's Downtown Cabaret and its predecessor, Baby O's Restaurant, limited the number of shifts black dancers could work, subjected them to racially offensive epithets and forced the dancers to work at a related club, Black Diamonds, even though they were subject to arrest there because they were not licensed to work at that club. Additionally, the pay and working conditions at Black Diamonds were inferior, EEOC alleged, and those who refused to work there were fined and not allowed to work at Danny's.
- The jury award included $130,550 in back pay, $1.68 million in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages. The agency noted in its press release that the verdict follows eight years of related lawsuits, contempt proceedings and consent decrees.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to employers with at least 15 employees and protects individuals from employment discrimination based on race and color, among other characteristics.
The law prohibits discrimination against workers or applicants based on race with regard to "hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, or any other term, condition or privilege of employment," according to EEOC. When Danny's allegedly made decisions about pay, privileges and working conditions based on race or color, it ran afoul of Title VII's mandate, EEOC said.
Employers can work to avoid allegations of race discrimination by ensuring that race is not a factor in employment decisions. For example, HR can implement standardized performance criteria and train managers on the law's requirements. HR also can work to ensure that policies and practices that seem neutral don't have a disparate impact on protected classes.