The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Skils’kin for allegedly retaliating against a Black employee who complained about racism in the workplace.
According to the Air Force Times, Skils’kin is a nonprofit organization that hires workers for contract and government jobs in Wyoming, Washington and Montana. According to the lawsuit, Bryan Wheels was called racial slurs while working at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo. Wheels was hired as a civilian grounds-keeping and kitchen worker in 2015.
From the EEOC’s news release:
Wheels, the only African American employee on the Skils’kin grounds crew, was called various racial slurs by Skils’kin employees. When Wheels complained about the racially offensive statements, Skils’kin assigned him to work directly with the coworker and supervisor who were harassing him. Skils’kin continued to ignore Wheels’ complaints and then fired him despite his multiple years of service while retaining a white employee hired only three months earlier.
The suit claims that the alleged behavior of the employees, as well as Skils’kin’s firing and failure to rehire Wheels after it laid him off in 2017 all violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law protects employees from racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace.
The suit also says that a supervisor told Wheels to keep quiet about the racial harassment. “It’s quite concerning how egregious the conduct was and that the employer didn’t take care of it,” EEOC regional attorney Mary O’Neill said Thursday, according to the Times. “There’s such a low percentage of African Americans in Wyoming. We worry when there’s very few African Americans in the workplace and there’s hostility like this.”
In their news release, the EEOC says it attempted an out-of-court settlement but was unsuccessful. It is seeking monetary relief for Wheels, including backpay, compensatory and punitive damages. It is also asking for injunctive relief against the company to prevent racial harassment and retaliation in the future.
Neither Skils’kin nor F.E. Warren Air Force Base responded to the Times’ phone calls for comment.