Posts Tagged ‘retaliation’

Plowed Under: Latina Tractor Driver Harassed, Retaliation Against at Organic Farm, Says EEOC

The situation down on the farm was inhospitable to a Latina tractor driver, according to a lawsuit filed today by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The largest grower of organic tree fruit in the United States, Stemilt Growers, and its integrated business, Stemilt Ag Services, violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by subjecting a Latina tractor driver to sexual harassment and then retaliating against her after she reported the abuse, the EEOC alleged.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Heidi Corona had worked for Stemilt as a tractor driver for over three years in Quincy, Wash., when she transferred to the company’s Wenatchee, Wash., orchard, where she was the only female in this job position. The EEOC charged that on her second day at the new location, Corona’s direct supervisor drove her to a remote area and then proceeded to make sexually explicit comments, proposition her for sex, and attempted to kiss her. Trapped in a moving vehicle at an unfamiliar and remote location with no cell service, Corona asked him to stop making such comments and stated that she was only there to work.

The agency also found that after this incident, the supervisor assigned Corona to pick up trash and excluded her from meetings with the other tractor drivers. When Corona reported the harassment to upper management, she was given a choice of continuing to work under that supervisor or accepting a transfer to work as a warehouse sorter for lower pay. She took the latter, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, under which employers are required to prevent and remedy sexual harassment and are prohibited from retaliation against an employee who reports harassment. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Case No._____________) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC seeks lost wages, monetary damages (including compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages), and injunctive relief, including training on anti-discrimination laws.

“No one should have to choose between continuing to work under a harasser or taking a pay cut to feel safe at work,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Carmen Flores. “Employers are responsible for the conduct of their supervisors and must act promptly to stop harassment of their workers.”

EEOC Seattle Field Office Director Nancy Sienko said, “We have seen how farmworkers, a group that is so often comprised of immigrant women working in isolated areas, are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment. The EEOC has made a priority of defending the civil rights of vulnerable workers and will seek the full extent of legal relief for Ms. Corona.”

Wenatchee-based Stemilt Growers LLC and its wholly owned subsidiary Stemilt Ag Services LLC operate and manage over 150 acres of orchards in Eastern Washington and employed over 6,000 workers in the 2009 growing season.

The EEOC’s Seattle Field Office has jurisdiction over Eastern Washington.

Transgender Employee’s Rights Violated By Applebee’s Restaurant in New York, EEOC Says

The firing of a female employee allegedly because she complained about sexual harassment has resulted in her employer opposite the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in an employment discrimination lawsuit.

The EEOC announced on Friday that it has filed this Title VII lawsuit against Apple Metro, Inc., which operates several dozen Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill restaurants in the New York City area. The alleged Title VII violation took place at the company’s Hawthorne, N.Y., restaurant, the EEOC said.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Apple Metro staff made numerous crude and derogatory references to the employee’s transgender status, repeatedly and intentionally referred to her with a male name and male pronouns, and made offensive comments about her genitalia. After the employee complained to management about the harassment on several occasions, the company fired her.

“The law requires employers who receive reports of sex harassment to investigate and take action to stop any unlawful treatment of their employees,” said Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York District director. “That includes harassment of individuals because of their gender identity.”

“The EEOC is committed to protecting the rights of all employees under federal law, through litigation if necessary, so that employees can work with dignity,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office.

 

EEOC Lawsuit Accuses Big Lots Store in W. Va. of Harassment of Employees With Disabilities

The Big Lots store in Elkins, West Virginia is inhospitable to workers with disabilities, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In this Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit filed yesterday, the EEOC charges that a retail employee with hearing and speech disabilities was subjected to harassment by her co-workers at Big Lots’ Elkins, W.V., store.

Co-workers often mocked the employee’s hearing disability and manner of speech, and frequently used derogatory and highly offensive terms in reference to her and her disabilities.

Numerous Big Lots officials were aware of the long-standing pattern of disability harassment taking place at their store but failed to take appropriate action to end the harassment and prevent it from recurring, the EEOC asserts. Additionally, the EEOC charges that Big Lots refused to select the employee with disabilities for several vacant jobs that she sought at the store because of her disabilities and in retaliation for her reporting of the harassment to company officials and to the EEOC.

Further, the EEOC’s lawsuit also charges that Big Lots subjected a department manager without disabilities at the Elkins store to discrimination and retaliation by changing her work schedule and withdrawing its permission for her to hold outside employment with the U.S. Postal Service, thereby forcing her to quit in order to save her Postal Service career. The EEOC says that Big Lots punished the department manager because of her long-term association with the harassment victim and in retaliation for her opposition to discrimination, such as her efforts to protect her co-worker from harassment by reporting the hostile work environment to Big Lots management officials and human resources. Big Lots officials also subjected both the harassed employee and the department manager to intimidation, threats, coercion, and interference with their exercise and enjoyment of rights protected by federal anti-discrimination law, according to EEOC’s lawsuit.

For a refresher on disability and harassment from the EEOC, click here.

Transgender Employee’s Complaint on Glassdoor.com Led to Firing, EEOC Alleges

Federal law prohibits retaliating against employees because they complained online about their companies’ policies, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asserts in a lawsuit filed last week.

In a lawsuit filed on May 24, the EEOC alleged that Educational technology company IXL Learning Inc. violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act by retaliating against an employee for accusing the company of discriminatory practices on Glassdoor.com,

According to the EEOC’s complaint, IXL fired product analyst Adrian Scott Duane within minutes of confronting him about a negative review he had posted on Glassdoor.com, a job recruiting and ratings website.

Fueled by a belief that IXL was discriminating against him, the 32-year-old transgender man,, had written, “If you’re not a family-oriented white or Asian straight or mainstream gay person with 1.7 kids who really likes softball – then you’re likely to find yourself on the outside … Most management do not know what the word ‘discrimination’ means, nor do they seem to think it matters.”

In addition to facing inappropriate questions about his gender identity and orientation from co-workers, Duane felt IXL treated his request to telecommute (due to post-operative recovery after gender confirmation surgery) differently from similar requests by two coworkers (due to situations related to their opposite-sex spouses). Given these experiences, Duane posted on Glassdoor.com in opposition to what he regarded as discrimination, and was fired for doing so.

The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“Retaliation is the No. 1 basis for charges filed with the EEOC, comprising over 45% filings nation­wide,” said William Tamayo, the EEOC’s San Francisco District Office director. “Under the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan, it is a priority to defend employees’ rights to speak out and challenge practices that they believe to be illegal discrimination.”

EEOC Trial Attorney Ami Sanghvi added, “While the platforms for employees to speak out against discrimination are evolving with technology, the laws against retaliation remain constant. If an employee reasonably believes that illegal discrimination occurred, the EEOC will vigorously defend that worker’s right to raise the issue, whether they do so by filing a charge with our agency, notifying company management or posting in a public arena such as Glassdoor.com.”

According to www.ixl.com, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company’s K-12 learning program is used by 1 out of every 9 U.S. students and in more than 190 countries.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

Employer Settles Retaliation Suit Alleging It Wouldn’t Rehire Harassment Complainers

Here’s a timely reminder: It’s against the law to retaliate against employees for complaining about discrimination even if you weren’t the employer that did the discriminating.

A school meals provider in Phoenix learned that lesson as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced yesterday it had settled a Title VII retaliation suit against the company.

According the lawsuit, Better 4 You Breakfast violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by retaliating against five Phoenix employees who had opposed unlawful sexual harassment and participated in an EEOC investigation of that harassment.

Better 4 You Breakfast had no role in the harass­ment against these employees; however, the EEOC charged that the company refused to rehire the five emp­loyees because they had engaged in the protected activity.

So for $62,500, the provider puts this lawsuit behind it.

“Retaliation for participating in protected activity in the workplace cannot be allowed,” said EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “In this case, these employees were not allowed to return to work because they asserted their right to oppose harassment in the workplace. We are pleased that Better 4 You worked cooperatively with us to resolve the claims against them and to evaluate its policies and training on retaliation.

A Real Pain: Dental Trade Association Shells Out $1.95M to Settle Title VII, ADA Retaliation Charge

Ouch! The American Dental Association might need to take an anesthetic for this one.

The association will pay $1.95 million to resolve charges that it violated Title VII of 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act by retaliating against its former chief legal counsel and HR director because they complained about discrimination to the association’s board of directors, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced on Friday.

The statement on the settlement from the association read:

The American Dental Association is pleased to be able to reach this amicable resolution of the allegations raised by Tamra Kempf and the former director of HR, and sincerely regrets the events that led to this dispute. Ms. Kempf and the former director of HR were dedicated and loyal employees whose primary motivation was the protection and furtherance of the interests of the association. As sometimes happens in business, differences arose between them and other members of the management team as to how various issues should be approached and handled, but this does not diminish the value of the many contributions that each made to the American Dental Association during their tenure. The associ­ation regrets that its actions led them to believe that they were retaliated against, and apologizes for any conduct that they may have construed as retaliation.

“The position of EEOC is that human resources professionals and in-house lawyers who advise their employers to abide by anti-discrimination laws are engaged in protected activities, and any retaliation against them for doing so is illegal,” said Julianne Bowman, director of EEOC’s Chicago’s District Office which oversaw the investigation.

Employee Fired for Complaining of Harassment Receives $35K in Settlement of EEOC Lawsuit

Repeat after me: Thou shalt not fire an employee because he or she complained of sexual harassment.

That’s what ABL Management, Inc., a Baton Rouge, La.-based food management company, did when informed by a male employee that he’d been harassed by a male supervisor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, ABL assigned employee Duane Gatson to serve as a kitchen supervisor at the Bay County Jail Facility in Panama City, Fla. While working in an isolated food storage area, Gaston was approached and groped by a male kitchen manager, the EEOC said. Thereafter, Gatson reported the offending conduct to his immediate supervisor. Following his report, he was advised that the company would conduct an investigation regarding his charges. However, within several weeks of making his report of sexual harassment, ABL fired Gaston as retaliation for complaining, the EEOC said.

Rather than fight in court, the employer agreed to settle the lawsuit for $35,000, the EEOC announced on April 10.