Lawsuit: Furniture company subjected Black manager-in-training to hostile work environment

Published 11:38 am Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Affordable Rent-to-Own — doing business as Affordable Home Furnishings, a furniture retailer and lessor in Baton Rouge — violated federal law when it subjected an African American manager-in-training to a hostile work environment and then discharged him in retaliation when he reported it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed Monday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a white account manager at Affordable Home Furnishings’ Florida Boulevard store repeatedly used the “n word” while working with the manager-in-training. In each instance, the manager-in-training told him the word was offensive and asked him not to use it. When the account manager continued to use the slur, the manager-in-training reported it to a white assistant store manager. The same day, the assistant store manager used the same word herself, which the manager-in-training reported to the store manager.

Several days later, Affordable Home Furnishings fired the manager in training, ostensibly because his performance was poor. The manager in training had performance that was comparable to that of the account manager, who was not fired. The manager-in-training had received near-perfect scores on the store manager test just two weeks earlier.

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Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and retaliation. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana (Civil Action No. 3:22-cv-00676) after first trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“The law prohibits employers from subjecting employees to racially offensive language and firing them because they report the use of such language,” said Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office.

“Few words are as insulting, contemptuous, and reprehensible as the ‘n’ word — no one should have to hear it while doing their job, and no one should lose their job for asking others not to use it,” said Andrew Kingsley, a senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office.

The lawsuit was commenced by the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office, which is part of its Houston District Office, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana and parts of Texas.