Three oil field service companies with operations in Edgerton agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle discrimination claims filed by 17 former employees of various ethnic origins, according to a federal judge's ruling Monday.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office last year sued Dart Energy Beckman Production Services Inc., and J&R Well Service for making offensive racial and ethnic slurs against Native American, black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic employees

The EEOC filed its initial complaint on Sept. 9, 2013, and filed a new, amended complaint on June 17.

Monday, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl agreed to issue a consent decree proposed by the parties that resolves the EEOC's claims and their counter-claims.

However, the decree does not mean the defendants have admitted any violations of the law or that they retaliated against the plaintiffs.

The companies will pay a total of $955,000 to the individuals with the EEOC determining the amount each individual shall receive, and $245,000 to their attorneys Jeff Gosman and Frank Chapman of Casper, according to the consent decree.

The decree does say the companies are barred from engaging in any employment practice that discriminates on the basis of race or national origin, and barred from retaliating against anyone who has made a charge of discrimination.

They must review their equal employment opportunity practices to prevent unlawful discrimination and retaliation, and promise to investigate any claims of discrimination. They also must implement mandatory training about discrimination, post a notice about the consent decree, establish a hotline for people with complaints of harassment or retaliation, and develop an annual survey about the work environment.

The companies had denied the allegations, and wanted the court to dismiss the lawsuit. A trial had been set for April.

The harassment started in 2005, according to the EEOC. Two company managers, Ken Nelson and Jim Ferguson, were responsible for many of the most offensive slurs:

  • They referred to Native Americans with terms such as "wagon burner," "dumb Indian," "redskin," and "blanket ass," according to the amended complaint.
  • "Mr. Nelson made comments to the effect of 'Custer should have killed all the Indians,' "Indians are all drunks and can't hold jobs,' and 'Indians are too stupid to understand their jobs.'"
  • Nelson and Ferguson referred to Hispanic employees with terms such as "burrito boy," "spic," "dirty Mexican," and "beaner."
  • At least once, Nelson said Mexicans were responsible for spreading swine flu.
  • Nelson and Ferguson referred to blacks as "n----rs," and Ferguson threw away job applicants from blacks.
  • More than once, Nelson told minority workers, "this is a white man's job. If you can't handle it, leave."