Posts Tagged ‘retaliation’

Staffing Firm in EEOC’s Glare After Firing of Woman Who Complained of Harassment

A staffing agency only made things worse when one of its employees complained she’s been sexually harassed by a co-worker, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Anchor Staffing, a Chicago-based staffing agency, violated an employee’s federal civil rights when it failed to respond adequately to her complaint about sexual harassment, removed her from her work assignment, and denied her any future work, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit it filed on November 1.

According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, the EEOC’s pre-suit investigation revealed that a female employee, whom Anchor Staffing assigned to work as a telephone operator at the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), was sexually harassed on her first day of work by another Anchor Staffing employee assigned to IDHS.

“After she complained to Anchor Staffing about the harassment, Anchor immediately removed the employee from her assignment at IDHS and failed to provide her any other work assignments, effectively firing her,” Bowman said. “Punishing a harassment victim for standing up for her rights is unconscionable and unlawful, and the EEOC will fight such misconduct.”

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination (including sex harassment) as well as retaliation in employment. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case, EEOC v. Anchor Staffing, Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-7899, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, and has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood.

The EEOC’s regional attorney for the Chicago District, Greg Gochanour, said, “Employees of staffing agencies, who constitute a large and growing share of the American workforce, are protected by federal civil rights laws. Like any employer, staffing agencies must react appropriately to complaints of sexual harassment. Here, Anchor Staffing responded unlawfully to an employee complaint by making her worse off when it terminated all her work assignments, both present and future.”

The EEOC seeks full make-whole relief, including back pay, future employment opportunities, compensatory and punitive damages, and non-monetary measures to correct Anchor Staffing’s practices in the future. The government’s litigation effort will be led by EEOC Trial Attorneys Brad Fiorito and Rich Mrizek and supervised by EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason.

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Water Company Turned Blind Eye to Harassment, Retaliation Against Black Employees, EEOC Says

It’s going to take a concerted effort by all concerned–employees, managers, company executives–to extinguish racial harassment from the workplace. Here’s a case in point where management fell down on the job and the alleged harassment continued.

Aqua America, Inc., doing business as, Aqua Resources Inc., a Pennsylvania-based water company, violated federal law by subjecting black employees to a racially hostile work environ­ment and firing a foreman in retaliation for complaining about the harassment, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced on Oct. 4.

According to the suit, Aqua hired Henry Blue, who is African-American, in January 2015 as a foreman at its Bear, Del., facility. The EEOC charged that his supervisor, a white superintendent, and other white foremen repeatedly made racially offensive jokes and derogatory comments, including calling Blue and other black employees racial slurs such as “n—-r,” “monkey” and “boy.” The superintendent also told a white employee “not to n—-r the truck up,” the EEOC said.

Blue complained to company management officials about the offensive racial comments to which he and other black employees were subjected. Aqua not only failed to stop the harassment, but it even promoted one of the wrongdoers and assigned Blue to work under his supervision on a project, the EEOC said.  In May 2016, Aqua fired Blue in retaliation for complaining about the racially hostile work environ­ment, the EEOC charged.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to harass employees on the basis of race or to retaliate against individuals who complain about discrimination. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Aqua America, Inc., d/b/a Aqua Resources, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-04346) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. As part of the suit, the EEOC is seeking back pay on behalf of Blue and compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Blue and other class members, as well as broad injunctive relief.

“All employees have the right to earn a living without being subjected to racial epithets and derogatory comments,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.

EEOC District Director Kevin Berry added, “Aqua was put on notice about the vile harassment but punished one of the victims instead of the wrongdoers. The EEOC has provided detailed recommendations and resources to assist employers in preventing workplace harassment, but will take strong enforcement action when employers choose to ignore their legal obligation to have a workplace free from harassment and retaliation.”

Bad Dough: Pizza Parlor Withdrew Job Offer After Women Complained About Wage, EEOC Alleges

It was a two-fer violation, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The employer offered to female applicants less pay as a man already in the job and then withdrew its job offer when they complained of the pay discrepancy.

A Delaware company that until recently operated a Pizza Studio restaurant in Kansas City, Kan., and still owns other restaurants nationwide, violated federal law by withdrawing job offers from two teens after the woman complained about being offered less pay than her male friend, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit filed on Sept. 5.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, two high school friends, Jenson Walcott and Jake Reed, applied to work at Pizza Studio as “pizza artists” in 2016. After both were interviewed and offered jobs, Walcott and Reed discussed their starting wages. Upon learning that Reed was offered 25¢ more per hour, Walcott called the restaurant to complain about the unequal pay. When she did so, the company immediately withdrew its offers of employment from both Walcott and Reed.

Such alleged conduct violates the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits companies from paying women and men unequally and retaliating against those who complain about or support a claim of unequal pay.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. PS Holding LLC (Pizza Studio), Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-02513 in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. The EEOC seeks monetary relief as well as a judgment and order requiring the company to implement policies and practices to prevent future discrimination.

“The federal law requiring equal pay for jobs requiring the same skill, effort, and responsibility is older than the law which protects employees from discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin,” said James R. Neely, Jr., director of EEOC’s St. Louis District Office. “Women must absolutely be paid the same as men for equal work.”

Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC’s regional attorney in St. Louis, said, “Perhaps even worse than offering unequal pay is firing employees when they make a good-faith inquiry regarding the possibility of unfair compensation. Employees need to know that the law protects co-workers who talk about their pay and those who complain if they believe the employer is not paying men and woman equally.”

EEOC: Securities Firm Hit Trifecta of Illegality

After a bit of a lull, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed various employment discrimination lawsuits in rapid succession. There’s a backlog of lawsuits from the end of July. Here is one more.

This one involves three distinct alleged grounds of discrimination–what in horse racing terms is known as the trifecta.

MVM Inc., an Ashburn, Va.-based diversified security services firm, violated federal law when it stopped accommodating a security guard’s religious beliefs and disciplined him in retaliation for his complaint about racial harassment, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit it announced on July 20.

According to the suit, Kelvin Davis is a practicing Muslim and observes his faith by wearing a beard. MVM hired Davis to work at a facility in Woodlawn, Md., as a security guard. Although MVM has a grooming policy which restricts guards’ facial hair to no longer than one-quarter of an inch, it granted Davis a waiver as a religious accommodation.

Davis maintained his beard while working for MVM for approximately one year, until he com­plained to MVM management that his supervisor had called him a “nigga.” Instead of taking corrective action, the day after Davis’ complaint, his supervisor and two managers retaliated against him by forcing him to shave his beard, the EEOC said.

The EEOC charged that MVM also retaliated against Davis by subjecting him to heightened scrutiny and unwarranted discipline, including a one-day suspension for arriving to work two minutes late. It also threatened him with termination. The EEOC charged that MVM’s failure to address the racial harassment, unjustified retaliatory actions, and threat of termination created conditions of employment so intolerable that Davis was forced to resign.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits dis­crim­ination based on race or religion. Title VII requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an emp­loyee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. The law also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee because he complained about harassment or discrimination.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. MVM, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-02025) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. As part of the suit, the EEOC is seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Davis, as well as injunctive relief.

“No one should be subjected to racial slurs to earn a living,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office. “Mr. Davis exercised his civil right to complain about racial harassment, but MVM unfortunately chose to engage in reprisal instead of addressing the harass­ment.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “Retaliation always makes a bad situation worse. Employers must take action to investigate and stop racial harassment, not punish the victim, and that’s why we filed this suit.”

 

Assistant Manager Fired For Complaining of Harassment by Store Owner’s Son, EEOC Alleges

A bad smell is emanating from a candle manufacturer, according to a just-filed lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Amy’s Country Candles L.L.C., a Harvey, La.-based manufacturer and purveyor of scented candles, violated federal law by firing an employee for complaining about sexual harassment, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit filed on Friday.

The EEOC’s suit alleges that the Amy’s store in the Tanger Outlet Mall in Gonzales, La., fired an employee, an assistant manager, because she complained about sexual harassment by the son of the store owner. The employee complained directly to the owner the day of the alleged harassment. Four days later, the employee, who had no job-related problems, was fired because, according to the owner, the employee “continued with the matter.”

Retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment or discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC seeks, among other things, monetary relief for the former employee; the adoption of policies and procedures to remedy and prevent all forms of discrimination and retaliation; and training on anti-harassment and discrimination laws for all employees and managers at Amy’s Country Candles.

“Federal and established Supreme Court law are very clear on this issue,” said Rayford O. Irvin, director of the EEOC’s Houston District Office, which serves Louisiana and East Texas. “Employees have a right to complain about practices they view as unlawful without repercussions. This woman fairly sought to assert that right and was unlawfully and unconscionably fired for it. The EEOC is here to fight for the rights of people in such a situation.”

Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office, added, “Companies that punish employees for complaining about sexual harassment or any other unlawful misconduct are only making a bad situation worse for themselves. The EEOC will aggressively ensure that employees are free to exercise their rights without fear of retaliation.”

People in Louisiana or East Texas who believe they may have been unlawfully retaliated against or subject to discrimination may contact the EEOC at (713) 651-4967.

 

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.