Exclusive: Equal Employment Opportunity Office Did Not Ban ‘Gadsden Flag’ or Rule It ‘Racist’

Gadsden Flag AP Ryan Kang
AP/Ryan Kang

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Office demanded June 3 the Postal Service investigate the claim by an employee that a co-worker’s hat with the Gadsden Flag — picturing a rattlesnake with the words: “Don’t Tread On Me” — was an actionable form of racial harassment in an order that has not yet been posted publicly.

“Please note that, contrary to news reports and tweets, the EEOC decision was not on the merits, did not decide that the flag was a racist symbol, and did not ban it,”Justine S. Lisser, a spokeswoman for EEOC told Breitbart News.

“What the decision did was conclude that since there was no investigation or agency decision on the complaint of race harassment and retaliation, the case should be returned to the Post Office for processing,” she said.

The decision, widely-interpreted to be a ruling against the flag designed by Christopher Gadsden, was actually a rebuke to the Post Office, which had dismissed a complaint about the flag.

The filer, who was given the name Shelton to protect their identity, said in the filing that the flag was racist because it was used by members of the Tea Party and created by Gadsden. Gadsden, a slave owner, was a South Carolina patriot in the American Revolution and he served as a general in the Continental Army.

According to the EEOC:

Complainant stated that he found the cap to be racially offensive to African Americans because the flag was designed by Christopher Gadsden, a “slave trader & owner of slaves.” Complainant also alleged that he complained about the cap to management; however, although management assured him C1 would be told not to wear the cap, C1 continued to come to work wearing the offensive cap. Additionally, Complainant alleged that on September 2, 2013, a coworker took a picture of him on the work room floor without his consent. In a decision dated January 29, 2014, the Agency dismissed Complainant’s complaint on the basis it failed to state a claim.

The complaint was filed Jan. 8, 2014 and was dismissed by the Post Office Jan. 29, 2014.

The complaint came on the heels of the Nov. 1, 2013 decision by the EEOC, which ruled that it was racial harassment for post office employees to wear Confederate flags.

The EEOC said in its order to the Post Office that it acknowledges the non-racist history of the Gadsden Flag. But, it said it could not ignore that in recent years, the flag has been used by racists and the center of racial controversies.

However, whatever the historic origins and meaning of the symbol, it also has since been sometimes interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in some contexts. For example, in June 2014, assailants with connections to white supremacist groups draped the bodies of two murdered police officers with the Gadsden flag during their Las Vegas, Nevada shooting spree. 2 Additionally, in 2014, African-American New Haven firefighters complained about
the presence of the Gadsden flag in the workplace on the basis that the symbol was racially insensitive. 3 Certainly, Complainant ascribes racial connotations to the symbol based on observations that it is sometimes displayed in racially tinged situations.

Thus: “In light of the ambiguity in the current meaning of this symbol, we find that Complainant’s claim must be investigated to determine the specific context in which C1 displayed the symbol in the workplace,” read the decision. C1 is the reference for the employee who was wearing the cap.

Inside the federal government, the EEOC is the final arbitrator for equal opportunity complaints; there is no appeal. In this case, the commission is not a party to one side or the other and it made clear in its charge to the Post Office that it made no judgement on the merits of Shelton’s filing, beyond deciding that it had not received an appropriate hearing.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.