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Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Monday, September 21, 2009

Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Alleging Race Discrimination by the City of Bonita Springs, Florida

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a consent decree with the city of Bonita Springs, Fla., that, if approved in federal court in Fort Myers, Fla., will resolve the department’s allegations that the city discriminated against an African American employee in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex or religion.

The Justice Department’s complaint, filed in December 2008, alleged that the city subjected Joseph W. Johnson to a hostile work environment when, among other things, his immediate supervisor repeatedly used racial slurs and epithets to refer to Johnson and other minorities using a recreational facility where Johnson works running a youth basketball program. The complaint further alleges that white coworkers also used racial slurs and epithets to refer to Johnson. Despite Johnson’s complaints to city management about racial harassment in his workplace, the city failed to take appropriate action to remedy the situation, according to the complaint.

Under the terms of the consent decree, Bonita Springs must provide Johnson with $25,000 in compensatory monetary relief. The decree also requires the city to modify its anti-discrimination policy to include a specific process governing complaints of discrimination in the workplace. In addtion, the city must train its supervisors to ensure that they properly handle future complaints of racial discrimination.

"Racial slurs and epithets should not be tolerated anywhere, and especially not in the workplace," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Title VII protects employees from having to suffer racially hostile work environments, and employers cannot allow these racially divisive environments to fester. If employers do not put a halt to racially hostile conduct, they will face liability under Title VII."

The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of Title VII. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/.

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Updated September 15, 2014