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Carolina Mattress Guild named in EEOC lawsuit

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Carolina Mattress Guild, a Thomasville, N.C.-based mattress manufacturer, subjected black employees to a racially hostile work environment and unlawfully fired the employee who complained about racial comments, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges in a lawsuit filed against the company.

Carolina Mattress Guild officials said the allegations are unfounded.

According to the EEOC's complaint, from as early as June 2012 through about Aug. 9, 2012, a truck loader and other black employees were repeatedly subjected to unwelcome derogatory racial comments and slurs by a white employee at the Carolina Mattress Guild facility.

The EEOC said the truck loader complained to company management, but the harassment continued. Three days after his last complaint, the truck loader was fired, the EEOC charged, in retaliation for his complaints. The suit identified one other black employee who was subjected to the same racial epithet by the white employee.

Carolina Mattress Guild officials denied the allegations. In a statement, the company said: "Carolina Mattress Guild was surprised to learn from Furniture/Today that a lawsuit had been filed alleging a violation of federal law involving Carolina Mattress Guild's employment practices. Carolina Mattress Guild treats all employees with dignity and is committed to operating a work place that complies in all respects with the requirements of law. Carolina Mattress Guild intends to defend the unfounded allegations of the lawsuit vigorously and is confident that its employment practices will be vindicated in court."

The EEOC said it filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief, including back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as reinstatement for the former truck loader.

"Companies must ensure that they do not allow racial slurs to be used in the workplace, and that they take prompt and effective action in response to complaints of such misconduct," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "Employers must also remember that retaliation against people who complain about illegal employment discrimination is itself against the law. The EEOC will vigorously enforce these federal laws."

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