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Black factory worker wouldn't sign statement, then was fired










United States District Court, Southern District, Houston

Case Type:

Discrimination - Race; Civil Rights - Title VII; Employment - Retaliation, Race Discrimination, Wrongful Termination

Case Name:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Downhole Technology, LLC, No. 4:17-cv-00574


April 25, 2017



Kenneth Echols (claimant) , 

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Rudy Sustaita; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Houston, TX, for U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ■ Andrew Burke Kingsley; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; New Orleans, LA, for U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


Downhole Technology LLC

Defense Attorney(s):

Stewart Hoffer; Hicks Thomas LLP; Houston, TX, for Downhole Technology LLC


On April 15, 2015, claimant Kenneth Echols, a factory technician for Downhole Technology who is black, complained to his supervisor that a co-worker had put on a white hood to harass and insult him. The supervisor reported the incident to the company's human resources director, who investigated the incident and questioned both the co-worker and Echols. The co-worker said he was only joking. On April 21, Echols was asked to sign a statement that the investigation was adequate and that he had not been harassed on the basis of his race. He refused, and the next day he was fired. Echols filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC sued Downhole for violating Title VII by discriminating against Echols on the basis of race and retaliating against him for complaining of race discrimination. Echols claimed that the mask or hood was clearly meant to evoke those worn by the Ku Klux Klan and that it was intended to harass, intimidate and insult him. The EEOC claimed that Echols was harassed by the co-worker; that the company did not respond adequately to correct the problem; and that he was fired in retaliation for his complaint. The company filed a general denial, but cooperated with the EEOC to resolve the case.


On behalf of Echols, the EEOC sought back pay, front pay and past and future compensatory damages, as well as injunctive relief relating to policies and training against age discrimination.


In the two-year consent decree settling the suit, Downhole agreed to pay Echols $120,000. The consent decree also contained injunctive relief.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by the EEOC's counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.