Posts Tagged ‘hostile work environment’

Putting the Fire Out: Sprinkler Company Forks Over $407K to EEOC to Settle Harassment Case

It took the EEOC to the rescue to douse the flames of discrimination and harassment at this New York company.

A & F Fire Protection Co., Inc., a fire sprinkler and fire standpipe contractor located in West Babylon, N.Y., has agreed to pay $407,500 and take substantial non-monetary corrective action to settle a race discrimination, hostile work environment, and retali­ation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced April 24.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that A & F discriminated against a class of black and Hispanic employees, including subjecting them to the frequent use of slurs such as “n—-r” and “s–c” in the workplace. The EEOC also asserted that employees were retaliated against for complaining about or opposing unlawful discrimination. For example, after a supervisor refused to take retaliatory action against employees who had complained about discrimination, his job responsibilities were changed and his supervisory authority was reduced. Another employee who filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC was later fired under pretextual circumstances.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from race and national origin discrimination, including the creation of a hostile work environment, and from retaliation for speaking out about such conduct in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. A & F Fire Protection Co., Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-04745) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. This case was litigated by EEOC trial attorneys Rosemary DiSavino, Kirsten Peters and Liane Rice.

On April 23, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Denis R. Hurley entered a consent decree resolving the case. In addition to a $407,500 award for lost wages and other damages awarded to a class of black and Hispanic employees, the decree provides for robust injunctive relief, includ­ing annual training for employees and supervisors on federal laws prohibiting employment dis­crimination, with a focus on laws prohibiting race and national original discrimination and retali­ation; the appointment of an EEO (equal employment opportunity) coordinator; the obliga­tion to provide semi-annual reports to the EEOC; a revised anti-discrimination policy and pro­cedure; and the distribution to all employees of the revised policy, notice of the lawsuit, and a letter from A & F’s president affirming the company’s commitment to maintaining a workplace free of discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliation. The EEOC will monitor A & F’s compliance with the three-year decree.

“Even blatant displays of racism and retaliation have not been eradicated from today’s workplace,” said EEOC New York District Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “Faced with a hostile work environment infected by racial slurs, the victims in this case bravely spoke out against discrimination and filed charges with the EEOC. They successfully used the protections of federal law to help not only themselves, but also coworkers who were similarly harmed.”

Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York District director, added, “It is never easy for an employee to oppose discrimination at his or her current workplace, but federal protections are available, with serious consequences for employers who do not respect employees’ rights.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Egged on: EEOC Says Poultry Ranch Condoned Harassment of Disabled Worker, Forced Her Exit

The harassment of this employee with a disability became so unbearable she concluded there was no alternative except to quit her job, a new federal civil rights lawsuit alleges.

A Saranac, Mich., egg producer violated federal law by subjecting a worker to a hostile work environment because of her disability and by retaliating against her for complaining about the discrim­inatory work environment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on Monday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Melinda Crooke was a line worker for Herbruck Poultry Ranch. After her supervisor learned about her disability-related symptoms, she was mocked on a weekly basis by her co-workers and supervisor because of those symptoms. Crooke complained about the mocking nicknames and physical imitation of her symptoms, but nothing was done to stop it. Instead, the harassment by the supervisor worsened, the EEOC said. The supervisor began to follow Crooke to the bathroom to time her breaks. On April 10, 2015, after her supervisor followed her into the bathroom and shouted at her, Crooke again complained to a person in human resources, who did nothing but advise Crooke to return to her shift. Finding the return to the same work environment unbearable, Crooke quit her job.

Creating a hostile work environment because of a disability and retaliating against an employee for complaints about it violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which also prohibits employers from making working conditions so intolerable that employees believe they have to leave. The EEOC seeks to recover monetary compensation for Crooke in the form of back pay and compensatory damages for emo­tional distress, as well as punitive damages. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Herbruck Poultry Ranch, Inc., Case No. 1:19-cv-00165) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“An employer cannot condone a work environment where an employee with an impairment is ridiculed because of it,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Dale Price. “It must step in to stop such behavior. The EEOC will vigorously pursue violations of the ADA and seek injunctive relief when employers fail to act promptly and appropriately.”

The Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District, which oversees Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio.

Another Settlement in “Harassment Epidemic”

The smaller the physical space in which people work, the more opportunities harassers have to ply their ugly behavior. And, according to federal civil rights enforcers, this is just part of a “harassment epidemic” across the United States.

Flash Market, Inc., owner and operator of convenience store gas stations in the Mid-South under the Citgo, Phillips, Conoco and Shell brands, has agreed to pay $100,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced January 29.

The EEOC’s Memphis District Office investigated a charge filed by a female cashier at a Memphis Flash Market and found that the company created a hostile work environment for the cashier and then fired her for complaining. Specifically, the EEOC charged in its suit that the supervisor propositioned the cashier for sex, frequently made sexually explicit comments and subjected her to inappropriate touching on several occasions. The cashier later complained to her store manager about the area manager’s conduct. However, the store manager told the cashier she could not help because she was being sexually harassed by the area manager as well. The area manager fired the cashier after she filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Memphis Division (EEOC v. Flash Market, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-02717), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit sought injunctive relief prohibiting Flash Market from discriminating against its female employees in the future, as well as lost wages, compensatory damages and other affirmative relief for the former employee.

Besides monetary relief, Flash Market entered into an 18-month consent decree requiring the company to train its Shelby County employees and managers on the requirements of Title VII and its prohibitions against sexual harassment in the workplace. Flash Market agreed to conduct exit interviews with departing employees to determine if they were subjected to sex discrimination or retaliation during their employment. Flash Market will also post an anti-discrimination notice and permit the EEOC to monitor the company’s compliance with the consent decree. Flash Market denied any liability or wrongdoing in the suit.

“This case is yet another example of the epidemic of sexual harassment, which continues to permeate workplaces across the country,” said Faye Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office. “We are pleased that Flash Market will take steps to create a work environ­ment that is free from such misconduct.”

EEOC Trial Attorney Jason Bailey said, “Preventing sexual harassment remains a top priority for the EEOC. We will continue to fight for employees who are sexually harassed at work and punished for speaking out against such behavior.”

Flash Market, Inc. owns and operates more than 90 convenience store gas stations in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee under the Citgo, Phillips, Conoco and Shell brands. The company employs approximately 700 people.

EEOC: Blacks Faced Hostile Work Environment, Bias at Mississippi Disaster Response Company

Anyone thinking we live in a post-racial age should try to convince African American employees at this Mississippi company.

Prewitt Enterprises, Inc., doing business as B&P Enterprises, and Desoto Marine, LLC violated federal law by subjecting African-American employees to a hostile work environment and discrimination because of their race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on September 28.

Prewitt, headquartered in Walls, Miss., and Desoto Marine, headquartered in Hernando, Miss., provide construction and salvage services, as well as derailment cleanup, hazardous material emergency response, and environmental remediation services. They specialize in disaster response.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, since at least January 2014, Prewitt and Desoto managers and supervisors subjected black employees to daily harassment and humiliation because of their race. Managers and supervisors regularly referred to African-American employees with profane, offensive and derogatory terms such as “n—-r,” “monkey,” “boy,” “mule,” etc.  The company managers made demeaning racial references to the black employees’ skin color and hair texture, as well as negative ethnic and racial references to slavery, plantations, lynching and the employees’ African ancestry. Further, management officials referred to their female family members and African-American women in general with sexually degrading terms.

The EEOC’s lawsuit also charges that black employees were consistently assigned the most dangerous and hazardous jobs. The companies often used local law enforcement to carry out threats and to intimidate employees.

The discrimination and harassment took place at the companies’ headquarters and every jobsite worked by the victims, including multiple locations throughout Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits harassment and discrimination on the basis of race and unequal terms and conditions of employment because of race. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Prewitt Enterprises d/b/a B&P Enterprises, Inc., and Desoto Marine, Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-00213) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s Memphis District Office investigated the charge of discrimination.

“The egregious nature of the racial harassment in this case is astonishing and disheartening,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has juris­dic­tion over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi. “It is inconceivable that more than 54 years after the establishment of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, racial equality in the workplace remains a dream deferred. Unfortunately, there is still much work to be done before we can achieve our vision of a respectful and inclusive workplace for all. Until then, the EEOC will continue to fight against racial injustice in the workplace.”

EEOC Yanks Teamsters Union’s Chain to Tune of $135K to Resolve Fair Representation Claims

Employers aren’t alone in sometimes violating federal civil rights laws. Unions can be guilty of that, too.

Teamsters Local Union No. 455, which has locations in Denver and Fort Morgan, Colo., has agreed to pay $153,000 to resolve discrimination complaints investigated by the Denver Field Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Sept. 14.

The EEOC’s investigation found reasonable cause to believe that Local 455 denied its members, who worked at the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Fort Morgan, fair union representation for failing to advocate for them, and subjecting them to retaliation and a hostile work environment because of their race, national origin and Muslim religion, all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Local 455 disputed the findings. The parties then agreed to engage in the conciliation process and have reached a resolution.

The conciliation includes monetary relief for the aggrieved individuals, and Local 455 also agreed to mandatory Title VII, grievance filing and handling training for the Fort Morgan business agent, assistant business agents and stewards. Additionally, Local 455 will post details about the EEOC’s findings that explain employee rights under Title VII to be free from discrimination based on the race, national origin, and retaliation, and will make all pertinent records available to the EEOC for inspection during the three-year agreement.

“In its capacity as a bargaining representative for its members, labor unions have an obligation to represent their members regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability,” said Elizabeth Cadle, district director for the Phoenix District. “We thank Local 455 and the charging parties for working with the EEOC to reach this positive conciliation on these important issues.”

EEOC: Female Employees Harassed at Store

According to the EEOC, this New York store was not a hospitable place for women to work.

Foodtown Corp., a supermarket in Elmhurst, N.Y., violated  federal law by maintaining a hostile work environment where two female workers  were sexually harassed by their supervisor and then fired for opposing this misconduct,  the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on September 10.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, two female employees were subjected  to repeated, egregious sexual harassment by their supervisor, a department  manager. This included solicitations for sex, lewd comments about the women’s  bodies, and inappropriate touching of their bodies, the complaint alleges. The  women repeatedly rejected the supervisor’s advances, and one reported the  harassment to the store manager. Despite this complaint, the harassment continued,  and the supervisor then terminated both employees in retaliation for their  rejection of his unwanted advances, the EEOC charges.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from  discriminating based on sex, and also from retaliating against workers who  object to discrimination. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination  prohibited by the statute. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for  the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. Foodtown Corp., and 82-10 Baxter  Avenue Food Corp. d/b/a Foodtown a/k/a Foodtown of Baxter Avenue, Civil Action  No. 18-cv-5100) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement  through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive  damages for the two employees and injunctive relief. The agency’s litigation  effort will be led by Senior Trial Attorney Adela Santos, supervised by  Supervisory Trial Attorney Raechel Adams.

“Federal law gives employees the right to work in an environment free  from sexual harassment,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s  New York District Office. “No worker should be forced to endure lewd comments,  propositions for sex, and inappropriate touching just so she can earn a  paycheck.”

The EEOC’s New York District director, Kevin Berry, added, “Sexual  harassment victims who bring the abuse to the attention of their supervisors  are doing the company a favor and should never be punished for it. The EEOC  will continue to aggressively enforce federal laws against retaliation for  reporting discrimination in the workplace.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office oversees New York, Northern New  Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and  Maine.

EEOC Sues Employer for Religious Harassment

This New Jersey employer is in trouble with federal regulators over its alleged harassment of a Catholic employee.

Hackensack Meridian Health, a New Jersey health care network, violated federal law when a manager engaged in the harassment of a Catholic employee because of the employee’s religious beliefs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed August 16.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Hackensack was aware of but failed to stop a hostile work environment at its Edison, N.J., facility. Shortly after the employee was hired to perform clinical data analytics work, his manager learned he was Catholic and reacted negatively upon seeing a crucifix in the employee’s office. Since then, the manager regularly belittled him, screamed at him, and ridiculed his work in front of others.

This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on religion, which includes subjecting employees to hostile or abusive treatment because of an employee’s religious beliefs. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (EEOC v. Hackensack Meridian Health, Civil Action No. 2:18-CV-12856) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“All employees are entitled to work in an environment free from unlawful harassment,” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “That includes hostile treatment motivated by an employee’s religious beliefs.”

“Equal opportunity in the workplace requires respect for the diversity of the American workforce,” said EEOC’s New York District Director Kevin Berry. “People of all religions are entitled to go to work and do their jobs without fear of harassment.”

The New York District Office of the EEOC is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.