Oil Slick Revisited

Two more oil companies come under fire for racial discriminations

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Does this sound familiar? A corporate oil giant is being sued for millions of dollars as African American employees charge they are being discriminated against and denied access to deserved promotions. Texaco revisited? No. This time, the accused are Houston-based corporate oil giants Pennzoil & Co. and Coastal Corp.

Both firms are being sued in federal court in claims that echo complaints brought in a class-action suit against Texaco last year. In fact, the same New York law firm, Bernstein, Litowitz, Berger & Grossmann, that handled the Texaco suit and settled out of court for $176.1 million, is also handling the cases against Pennzoil and Coastal.

The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Houston, seeks $400 million from Coastal on behalf of 10 plaintiffs and $300 million from Pennzoil, where there are 11 employees alleging racial discrimination. According to Daniel Berger, an attorney with the law firm, there are no African American board members at Coastal and only one recent appointment at Pennzoil.

The plaintiffs will seek class-action status from the court next month.

This latest suit follows a rash of court cases against multimillion dollar corporations including Avis and Circuit City. The EEOC reports more cases are arising because of the strengthening of the 1991 Civil Rights Act, which now allows litigants to sue for money damages as well as attorney fees.