Helicopter Maker Racially Harassed Workers, Federal Agency Charged

PHILADELPHIA — Sikorsky Global Helicopters, a Stratford, Conn.-based manufacturer of helicopters for commercial and military use, violated federal law when it subjected a class of African American employees to racial harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today. The EEOC also charged Sikorsky with refusing to hire a temporary employee because of her race and in retaliation for complaints about the racial harassment.

According to the EEOC’s suit, African American employees who worked as permanent or temporary employees in the prep and paint department at Sikorsky’s facility in Coatesville, Pa. were subjected to severe and pervasive racial harassment. A supervisor and employees routinely made racially based derogatory slurs and remarks. Once a white coworker displayed a picture of an animal tradi­tion­ally used to insult African-Americans, prompting other white employees on the shop floor to join in and pretend to mimic the animal and taunt the black employees. On another occasion when coworkers learned that a former employee was going to be a father, they referred to the expected child by racial epithets, the EEOC charges. When the former employee objected to the racial slurs, his coworkers told him to stop being “soft.”

Furthermore, the harassment persisted despite complaints to management and human resources. Sikorsky also refused to hire another temporary employee who worked as an aircraft painter as a per­manent employee because of her race (black) and in retaliation for her complaint about the racial harassment, the EEOC says.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial harassment and discrimination. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee because she complained about harassment. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Sikorsky Aircraft Corpora­tion d/b/a Sikorsky Global Helicopters, Civil Action No. 2:19-cv-04514-PBT) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“No worker – whether a temporary or permanent employee – should be subjected to such blatant and offensive racial harassment, said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Director Jamie R. Williamson. “If an employer chooses to condone racial harassment in defiance of federal law, then the EEOC stands ready to take vigorous action to protect the rights of workers.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “When an employee complains about racial harassment, a wise employer recognizes that it is an opportunity to investigate and correct the situation – not an invitation to engage in retaliation. The EEOC takes workplace harassment and retaliation very seriously and that is why we filed this suit.”

Preventing harassment is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.

The EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.