Oil-field services company agrees to settle racism claim

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

May 30, 2013 at 12:30 a.m.
Updated May 31, 2013 at 12:31 a.m.

An oil-field services company agreed to pay a Victoria man $150,000 Thursday after he accused it of racial harassment and retaliation.

The out-of-court agreement reached by both sides and signed by U.S. Federal Judge Gregg Costa also requires Torqued-Up Energy Services to implement an anti-discrimination policy, post a notice regarding its commitment to protect employees from harassment and provide training.

Michael Charleston, who is African-American, made the allegations. He quit after working in Torqued-Up's outfit near Yorktown for six months after he was asked to submit to an additional drug test not required of his white co-workers, his attorney, John W. Griffin Jr., said.

"They said, 'You either do it or you're fired,'" Griffin said, adding that he was one of just two African-American employees at this location.

Before then, Charleston endured months of racial slurs, and complaining got him nowhere, Griffin added.

"He was demoted and ordered to wash cars and sweep," he said, which is something Charleston was grossly overqualified for, as he has some 30 years of experience as a driller.

After he left, Charleston was unemployed for about 10 months. Griffin thinks that on one occasion Torqued-Up discouraged a company from hiring his client.

Torqued-Up's attorney Paul E. Hash, of Dallas, could not be reached Thursday night for comment.

Torqued-Up, based in Tyler, provides coiled tubing, pressure pumping, wrenching, testing and fracturing services to the petroleum and gas industry in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, according to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission release.

Griffin said this case was unusual both because the EEOC was involved and because there was a large amount of racial slurs. He did not think this behavior was characteristic of the industry, though.

"There's no place for that. Not in a church, not in an oil field and not in an office building," he said.



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