EEOC Snares $14.5 Million in Monetary Relief On Minority Bias Claims Against Texas Driller

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By Patrick Dorrian

April 21 — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has settled for $14.5 million and other relief claims that a Texas-based oil and gas drilling company subjected minority workers nationwide to discrimination and harassment based on race and national origin, as well as retaliation, the agency announced April 20.

Judge Wiley Y. Daniel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado April 17 signed a four-year consent decree that the EEOC had reached March 24 with Patterson-UTI Drilling Co. The decree requires the driller to establish a $12.26 million settlement fund for a class of Hispanic, Latino, black, American Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander and other minority workers who have allegedly faced discrimination at the company's facilities in Colorado and other states.

The decree applies to all Patterson-UTI facilities and locations nationwide, including but not limited to drilling rigs. All minorities employed by the company at any time from Jan. 1, 2006, to the decree's effective date are potentially eligible to share in the settlement fund.

In an April 20 statement announcing the court's approval, the EEOC said related discrimination charges filed with the commission were settled separately from the class claims.

Together with the class fund, the settlement of those charges brings the total monetary relief against Patterson-UTI to $14.5 million, according to the EEOC.

The company didn't admit any liability on the EEOC's claims.

Discriminatory Job Assignments, Discipline Alleged

The March 24 consent decree announcement came the same day the EEOC filed suit against Patterson-UTI under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

According to the EEOC, the company relegated its minority employees to lower-level jobs, denied them training and on-the-job experience, and discriminated against them in the provision of discipline, job assignments, and promotions.

The alleged harassment included racial and ethnic slurs, jokes and comments, as well as verbal and physical intimidation directed at minority employees.

The purported disparate treatment also contributed to the hostile work environment, the complaint alleged.

Under the decree, Patterson-UTI also must create a new vice president position to be filled by a “qualified EEO professional” who will facilitate, monitor and report on the company's compliance with certain training, management evaluation, minority outreach and other remedial measures.

EEOC attorneys in Denver represented the commission. Paul Hastings LLP represented Patterson-UTI.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

Text of the decree is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Equal_Employment_Opportunity_Commission_v_PattersonUTI_Drilling_C/2.