Matthew Clark was lying on the ground fixing a digger for a North Dakota oil field services company when a manager allegedly came up to him and, laughing, urinated on his legs.
Clark, of Filipino descent, already had suffered constant verbal abuse during his job as a “rat hole” laborer for American Casing & Equipment Inc., according to his 2015 court complaint. The white manager, shop foreman Jerome Funk, allegedly called him a “monkey,” “wetback,” “brown worm” and other profane racial epithets.
“People kid around, you know?” said American Casing’s owner, Steve Larvick, in an phone interview. “I wasn’t there, so I can’t say one way or another if he was just kidding around or if they were just kidding around with each other or what.”
This month, Larvick’s company settled a discrimination case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. American Casing agreed to pay Clark $154,400 for backpay and damages and $95,600 for his legal fees. A judge still needs to approve the settlement.
“We got spanked pretty good,” Larvick said.
Clark’s attorney, Joshua Newville of Minneapolis, said he hopes the settlement sends a message to other North Dakota businesses.
“There’s certainly no shortage of this kind of conduct,” he said. “Too many employers up there are treating it like it’s the Wild Wild West.”
Clark, the worker who complained of racial slurs and getting peed on, got fired. American Casing retaliated against him, according to the EEOC, by terminating him two days after he complained to the company’s safety manager.
Funk, the shop foreman, claims he didn’t urinate on Clark, said Larvick. Larvick said he doesn’t know what happened. Funk got suspended without pay for about seven days, Larvick said, “but that was about it.”
Larvick said he asked the EEOC what to do. “I said, ‘If I did terminate him, what is that going to get me?’ They didn’t really say anything. Apparently it didn’t help my case much.”
Funk is back on the job.