Drilling Co. Pays $12M To End EEOC Discrimination Suit

By Aaron Vehling 360Law.com

Law360, New York (March 25, 2015, 12:53 PM ET) — Patterson-UTI Drilling Company LLC on Tuesday agreed to pay $12.2 million to settle the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s lawsuit accusing it of discriminating against its minority workers and allowing a hostile work environment that featured ethnic slurs, intimidation and withholding of promotions, among other things.
Patterson-UTI Drilling agreed to set up a fund to compensate all minority workers it employed at any time from Jan. 1, 2006, to the date a Colorado federal judge signs off on the deal, according to the consent decree the parties jointly filed.“This decree is the product of collaboration between EEOC and Patterson-UTI on programmatic initiatives to reach a negotiated resolution of outstanding claims,” the proposed settlement says.Up to 10 percent of the settlement could be allocated to lost wages and benefits, according to the settlement, which gives Patterson-UTI Drilling 20 days to turn over a list of eligible employees. Also within that time, the settlement administrator will set up a website to advertise the agreement, according to the filing.

For its part, the EEOC must work with the company to create a settlement notice and claim form, according to the agreement.

There are also nonmonetary components of the settlement. Patterson-UTI Drilling is barred from further discriminatory practices, must create and fill a new vice president position that focuses on equal employment opportunities in the company and has to establish an anti-discrimination training program for its employees, the settlement says.

Patterson-UTI Drilling also has to file progress reports for both the four-year duration of the consent decree and another year after it terminates, according to the settlement.

The proposed settlement was filed the same day as the EEOC’s complaint, which is the result of the agency’s prior investigation of three different charges filed by Patterson-UTI Drilling workers accusing the company of a nationwide pattern or practice of setting up a hostile work environment based on race, color or national origin, disparate treatment and retaliation, according to the agreement.

Patterson-UTI denies the EEOC’s allegations and says it did not engage in any unlawful action or retaliation, according to the decree.

“This decree is a compromise of disputed claims, entered into to avoid further disruption, costs, delay and expense of protracted litigation, and any payments or undertakings made hereunder are not and should not be construed as an admission of liability on the part of Patterson-UTI,” the decree says.

However, the EEOC has alleged that the hostile work environment Patterson-UTI fostered spanned from racial and ethnic comments to verbal and physical harassment and intimidation of minority employees, as well as “relegating minority employees to lower-level positions” and denying training or on-the-job experience.

The agency’s complaint also accused the company of disparate treatment in its employment practices and retaliating against employees who complained about discrimination or harassment.

Both the EEOC and Patterson-UTI on Wednesday declined to comment until the court approves the settlement.

The EEOC is represented by Stephanie Struble and Rita Byrnes Kittle of the agency.

Patterson-UTI is represented by Nancy L. Abell of Paul Hastings LLP.

The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Patterson-UTI Drilling Company LLC, case number 1:15-cv-00600, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

–Editing by Rebecca Flanagan.