March 22, 2006, 5:59PM
Man said he was choked, taunted at work
By L.M. SIXEL
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
A black laborer for a pipe company in Conroe who contends white co-workers subjected him to racial epithets and choked him with a hangman's noose has won a $1 million settlement from his former employer.
"I find it very hard to believe that in 2006 we're finding incidents like this in the workplace," said Cari M. Dominguez, the chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who was visiting Houston Tuesday on other business.
The settlement, which stems from a lawsuit filed by the EEOC in 2003, is the largest single award the agency has won for an individual in its history, Dominguez said.
Commercial Coating Services denies the allegations in the consent decree, which was approved Monday by U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison and announced by the EEOC on Tuesday. A company representative referred all calls for comment to the company's lawyer, who did not return telephone calls.
Charles Hickman worked at Commercial Coating Services for seven months in 2002. Hickman, the company's only black employee, said his white co-workers "” including his supervisor "” started making racial taunts almost as soon as he was hired, according to the EEOC suit.
Then, one day one of his co-workers told him someone wanted to talk to him in the bathroom, the 37-year-old claimed in the suit. When Hickman went in, two co-workers were waiting with a hangman's noose, which they put around his neck and tightened, the suit alleged.
Hickman said a fight broke out and he lost consciousness. Once the noose was removed, he began coughing up blood.
"I'm still having problems," Hickman said. "I'm still on medication to make it through the days."
Limited job hopes
Hickman, who has five children between the ages of.....
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