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Magna heating and air company faces racial harassment suit
Courts • Black employees say they were fired after they complained.

By Mike Gorrell The Salt Lake Tribune

Published September 30, 2010 9:25 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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A Magna heating and air-conditioning company is being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly firing two black employees who complained they were harassed racially.

"Racial comments, racial 'jokes' and repeated use of the N-word were commonplace" at Holmes & Holmes Industrial Inc., 9152 W. 2700 South, said the suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for Utah by the EEOC. It was filed on behalf of former employees Antonio Bratcher and Joby Bratcher, who are brothers, and "a class of employees who were adversely affected by such practices."

The EEOC said the racial comments were made frequently by managers and co-workers at one of the company's construction sites, and that Holmes & Holmes supervisors did not respond to the men's complaints about the workplace discrimination.

Instead, the complaint alleged the employees "were unlawfully terminated in retaliation for their complaints," said Mary Jo O'Neill, EEOC regional attorney in Phoenix.

Ruth Shapiro, a Salt Lake City attorney representing Holmes & Holmes, said the company will defend itself aggressively against the charge.

"When the jury hears this case, I am confident Holmes & Holmes will be vindicated," she added, noting that it would be inappropriate to comment on details while the case is being adjudicated.

The litigation said the Bratcher brothers notified Holmes & Holmes of the racial harassment incidents 30 days before the lawsuit was filed, in writing and verbally, but company supervisors did nothing. The brothers then were fired "with malice and/or reckless indifference to their federally protected rights.

O'Neill said the EEOC is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the two men and other blacks who were discriminated against by the company and a court order requiring Holmes & Holmes to "institute and implement policies to eradicate and prevent future episodes of racial discrimination."

Added EEOC trial attorney Richard Sexton, "In this 21st-century work force, no one should have to endure this type of behavior in order to make a living."

Holmes & Holmes has been in business for more than 25 years, its website said. The company installs and maintains residential and commercial heating and air-conditioning systems, repairs boilers and chillers, and services restaurant refrigeration systems. Its work is certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Star, a U.S. Department of Energy program to help businesses and individuals improve energy efficiency.

The company operates in Salt Lake, Davis, Morgan, Summit, Utah, Wasatch, Weber and Tooele counties.

mikeg@sltrib.com



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